Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Spinal robot adjusts to patient movements

Steve Rogerson
January 30, 2018



An image-guided robot for inserting screws into a patient's spine can automatically detect if the patient moves and adjust its position accordingly.
 
The first patient to be operated on by the robot was at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, alleviating her from severe pain and improving her mobility.
 
"People get excited when they realise that there are new potential interventions and strategies to help them get better, faster," said Nicholas Theodore, professor of neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and director of its neurosurgical spine centre. "We are really excited to be able to offer this to our patients."
 
The first patient to go through this procedure had a spine injury from a fall at home. She agreed to the new robotic surgery, in part because it aims to be 100 per cent accurate.
 
Current image-guided surgical procedures require the surgeon to look back and forth between the patient and an image, which causes imperfection of screw placement. While oftentimes these placements are good enough, it wasn't good enough for Theodore, who invented the robot and maintains a financial interest in the technology.
 
This robot marries a CT scan of the patient with the actual patient, allowing the surgeon to point to a spot on the CT scan and tell the robot to aim for that same spot. Connected to a camera, which itself reads landmarks on the patient, the robot is able to process what the camera sees with the CT image in real time.
 
The biggest fear in this type of procedure is movement – what if the patient breathes or otherwise moves slightly – but this robot can sense changes in position and adjust accordingly.
 
After the surgery "I felt better right away. It was amazing," said the patient in a video testimonial.
 
Spine surgery is used to treat conditions that include degenerative disease, spine tumours and trauma. According to a 2015 study, traffic accidents and falls are the leading cause of spinal injuries in the UAE. As such, Theodore was a featured speaker during the Paediatrics & Orthopaedics conferences at this week’s Arab Health in Dubai.
 
Johns Hopkins Medicine, headquartered in Baltimore, Maryland, is an $8bn integrated global health enterprise and one of the leading academic health care systems in the USA.
 
Johns Hopkins University has signed a memorandum of understanding with UK-based Medopad to explore projects using its patient monitoring platform, artificial intelligence and machine learning capabilities. As part of the university’s global mhealth initiative and technology innovation centre, the two organisations will also develop joint clinical and public health projects and innovations that leverage Medopad’s technology and expertise.