Schenectady County

Ellis surgeons getting some robotic assistance

Ellis Hospital has become the first hospital in upstate New York to begin using a robotic device for

Ellis Hospital has become the first hospital in upstate New York to begin using a robotic device for spinal surgery, officials announced today.

Pioneering the device are board-certified doctors Brian Gordon and Frank Genovese, partners in New York Spine & Neurosurgery. Gordon, an orthopedic surgeon with a speciality in spinal procedures, and Genovese, a neurosurgeon, used the device for the first time Friday on a local woman.

The doctors are working with the Cleveland Clinic to develop additional surgical procedures and equipment designs for the device, called SpineAssist. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration earlier this year gave approval to use the miniature robot for cervical, thoracic and lumbar surgery.

“With the device, we are able to minimize patient exposure to radiation, danger and pain and to increase the accuracy of the procedure,” Gordon said.

SpineAssist offers accuracy to within the width of a human hair for the placement of implants into spinal bone. Accuracy is important as the area is packed with nerve roots and major blood vessels.

“We are targeting an area the size of a pinkie, with little room for error,” Genovese said.

SpineAssist is a soda-can-sized device that attaches to the patient’s spine during the surgery. Using X-rays like maps, it guides surgeons to the precise location for insertion of screws and other implants.

The robot follows a pre-surgical plan based on a computerized tomography image of the patient’s spine. A second X-ray is taken during surgery to ensure additional accuracy.

“This is true robotics,” Gordon said.

With the robot, the procedure requires fewer X-rays and a smaller incision. Under conventional surgery, doctors take 20 or more X-rays to ensure accuracy, which increases radiation exposure. They also make a longer incision — 7 inches versus 2 inches — and perform the alignment freehand.

“The accuracy will allow us to do surgeries we didn’t have access to before, due to the potential for nerve damage,” Genovese said.

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