Neurosurgery Blog


Daily bibliographic review of the Neurosurgery Department. La Fe University Hospital. Valencia, Spain

Asleep Robot-Assisted Surgery for the Implantation of Subthalamic Electrodes Provides the Same Clinical Improvement and Therapeutic Window as Awake Surgery

OBJECTIVE: To study the impact of not performing awake clinical evaluation during the robot-assisted implantation of subthalamic nucleus deep brain stimulation (STN-DBS) electrodes on the stimulation parameters and clinical outcomes in patients with Parkinson disease (PD).

METHODS: A total of 23 patients with PD underwent robot-assisted surgery for the bilateral implantation of STN-DBS electrodes. Thirteen patients received general anesthesia (GA) and a limited intraoperative evaluation (side effects only), and the other 10 patients received local anesthesia (LA) and a full evaluation. The primary endpoint was the therapeutic window (TW), defined as the difference between the mean voltage threshold for motor improvement and the mean voltage threshold for side effects in the active contacts at 12 months after surgery. Motor scores were measured as well.

RESULTS: The TW was similar in the LA and GA groups, with mean  standard deviation values of 2.06  0.53 V and 2.28  0.99 V, respectively (P [ 0.32). In the short term, the Unified Parkinson Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS) III score in the “off-drug, on-stim” condition fell to a similar extent in the LA and GA groups (by 40.3% and 49%, respectively; P [ 0.336), as did the UPDRS III score in the “on-stim, ondrug” condition (by 57% and 70.7%, respectively; P [ 0.36).

CONCLUSIONS: Asleep, robot-assisted implantation of STN-DBS electrodes (with accurate identification of the STN and positioning of the DBS lead) produced the same motor results and TW as awake surgery.



Navigation and Robotics in Spinal Surgery: Where Are We Now?

Neurosurgery 80:S86–S99, 2017

Spine surgery has experienced much technological innovation over the past several decades. The field has seen advancements in operative techniques, implants and biologics, and equipment such as computer-assisted navigation and surgical robotics.

With the arrival of real-time image guidance and navigation capabilities along with the computing ability to process and reconstruct these data into an interactive three-dimensional spinal “map”, so too have the applications of surgical robotic technology.

While spinal robotics and navigation represent promising potential for improving modern spinal surgery, it remains paramount to demonstrate its superiority as compared to traditional techniques prior to assimilation of its use amongst surgeons.

The applications for intraoperative navigation and image-guided robotics have expanded to surgical resection of spinal column and intradural tumors, revision procedures on arthrodesed spines, and deformity cases with distorted anatomy.

Additionally, these platforms may mitigate much of the harmful radiation exposure in minimally invasive surgery to which the patient, surgeon, and ancillary operating room staff are subjected. Spine surgery relies upon meticulous fine motor skills to manipulate neural elements and a steady hand while doing so, often exploiting small working corridors utilizing exposures that minimize collateral damage.

Additionally, the procedures may be long and arduous, predisposing the surgeon to both mental and physical fatigue. In light of these characteristics, spine surgery may actually be an ideal candidate for the integration of navigation and robotic-assisted procedures.

With this paper, we aim to critically evaluate the current literature and explore the options available for intraoperative navigation and robotic-assisted spine surgery.

Minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion with the ROSA Spine robot and intraoperative flat-panel CT guidance

Minimally invasive transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion with the ROSATM Spine robot and intraoperative flat-panel CT guidance

Acta Neurochir (2016) 158:1125–1128

Circumferential arthrodesis is commonly used to treat degenerative lumbar diseases. Minimally invasive techniques may enable faster recovery and reduce the incidence of postoperative infections.

Methods: We report on the surgical technique of a transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF) procedure performed with the assistance of a new robotic device (ROSATM Spine) and intraoperative flat-panel CT guidance.

Conclusions: The combined use of this new robotic device and intraoperative CT enables accurate and safe arthrodesis in the treatment of degenerative lumbar disc diseases.

Robot-Assisted Stereoelectroencephalography

Robot-Assisted Stereoelectroencephalography

Neurosurgery 78:169–180, 2016

Robot-assisted stereoelectroencephalography (SEEG) may represent a simplified, precise, and safe alternative to the more traditional SEEG techniques.

OBJECTIVE: To report our clinical experience with robotic SEEG implantation and to define its utility in the management of patients with medically refractory epilepsy.

METHODS: The prospective observational analyses included all patients with medically refractory focal epilepsy who underwent robot-assisted stereotactic placement of depth electrodes for extraoperative brain monitoring between November 2009 and May 2013. Technical nuances of the robotic implantation technique are presented, as well as an analysis of demographics, time of planning and procedure, seizure outcome, in vivo accuracy, and procedure-related complications.

RESULTS: One hundred patients underwent 101 robot-assisted SEEG procedures. Their mean age was 33.2 years. In total, 1245 depth electrodes were implanted. On average, 12.5 electrodes were implanted per patient. The time of implantation planning was 30 minutes on average (range, 15-60 minutes). The average operative time was 130 minutes (range, 45-160 minutes). In vivo accuracy (calculated in 500 trajectories) demonstrated a median entry point error of 1.2 mm (interquartile range, 0.78-1.83 mm) and a median target point error of 1.7 mm (interquartile range, 1.20-2.30 mm). Of the group of patients who underwent resective surgery (68 patients), 45 (66.2%) gained seizure freedom status. Mean follow-up was 18 months. The total complication rate was 4%.

CONCLUSION: The robotic SEEG technique and method were demonstrated to be safe, accurate, and efficient in anatomically defining the epileptogenic zone and subsequently promoting sustained seizure freedom status in patients with difficult-to- localize seizures.

Unskilled unawareness and the learning curve in robotic spine surgery

SpineAssist™ robot system

Acta Neurochir (2015) 157:1819–1823

Robotic assistance for the placement of pedicle screws has been established as a safe technique. Nonetheless rare instances of screw misplacement have been reported.The aim of the present retrospective study is to assess whether experience and time affect the accuracy of screws placed with the help of the SpineAssist™ robot system.

Methods Postoperative computed tomography (CT) scans of 258 patients requiring thoracolumbar pedicle screw instrumentation from 2008 to 2013 were reviewed. Overall, 13 surgeons performed the surgeries. A pedicle breach of >3 mm was graded as a misplacement. Surgeons were dichotomised into an early and experienced period in increments of five surgeries.

Results In 258 surgeries, 1,265 pedicle screws were placed with the aid of the robot system. Overall, 1,217 screws (96.2 %) were graded as acceptable. When displayed by surgeon, the development of percent misplacement rates peaked between 5 and 25 surgeries in 12 of 13 surgeons. The overall misplacement rate in the first five surgeries was 2.4%(6/245). The misplacement rate rose to 6.3 % between 11 and 15 surgeries (10/158; p=0.20), and reached a significant peak between 16 and 20 surgeries with a rate of 7.1 % (8/112; p= 0.03). Afterwards, misplacement rates declined.

Conclusions A major peak in screw inaccuracies occurred between cases 10 and 20, and a second, smaller one at about 40 surgeries. One potential explanation could be a transition from decreased supervision (unskilled but aware) to increased confidence of a surgeon (unskilled but unaware) who adopts this new technique prior to mastering it (skilled). We therefore advocate ensuring competent supervision for new surgeons at least during the first 25 procedures of robotic spine surgery to optimise the accuracy of robot-assisted pedicle screws.

Feasibility study for brain biopsies performed with the use of a head-mounted robot

Feasibility study for brain biopsies performed with the use of a head-mounted robotJ Neurosurg 123:737–742, 2015

Frame-based stereotactic interventions are considered the gold standard for brain biopsies, but they have limitations with regard to flexibility and patient comfort because of the bulky head ring attached to the patient. Frameless image guidance systems that use scalp fiducial markers offer more flexibility and patient comfort but provide less stability and accuracy during drilling and biopsy needle positioning. Head-mounted robot–guided biopsies could provide the advantages of these 2 techniques without the downsides. The goal of this study was to evaluate the feasibility and safety of a robotic guidance device, affixed to the patient’s skull through a small mounting platform, for use in brain biopsy procedures.

Methods This was a retrospective study of 37 consecutive patients who presented with supratentorial lesions and underwent brain biopsy procedures in which a surgical guidance robot was used to determine clinical outcomes and technical procedural operability.

Results The portable head-mounted device was well tolerated by the patients and enabled stable drilling and needle positioning during surgery. Flexible adjustments of predefined paths and selection of new trajectories were successfully performed intraoperatively without the need for manual settings and fixations. The patients experienced no permanent deficits or infections after surgery.

Conclusions The head-mounted robot–guided approach presented here combines the stability of a bone-mounted set-up with the flexibility and tolerability of frameless systems. By reducing human interference (i.e., manual parameter settings, calibrations, and adjustments), this technology might be particularly useful in neurosurgical interventions that necessitate multiple trajectories.

An Experimental Feasibility Study on Robotic Endonasal Telesurgery

Robotic teleneurosurgery

Neurosurgery 76:479–484, 2015

Novel robots have recently been developed specifically for endonasal surgery. They can deliver several thin, tentacle-like surgical instruments through a single nostril. Among the many potential advantages of such a robotic system is the prospect of telesurgery over long distances.

OBJECTIVE: To describe a phantom pituitary tumor removal done by a surgeon in Nashville, Tennessee, controlling a robot located approximately 800 km away in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, the first remote telesurgery experiment involving tentacle-like concentric tube manipulators.

METHODS: A phantom pituitary tumor removal experiment was conducted twice, once locally and once remotely, with the robotic system. Robot commands and video were transmitted across the Internet. The latency of the system was evaluated quantitatively in both local and remote cases to determine the effect of the 800-km distance between the surgeon and robot.

RESULTS: We measured a control and video latency of ,100 milliseconds in the remote case. Qualitatively, the surgeon was able to carry out the experiment easily and observed no discernable difference between the remote and local cases.

CONCLUSION: Telesurgery over long distances is feasible with this robotic system. In the longer term, this may enable expert skull base surgeons to help many more patients by performing surgeries remotely over long distances.

Assessing Bimanual Performance in Brain Tumor Resection With NeuroTouch, a Virtual Reality Simulator

Assessing Bimanual Performance in Brain Tumor Resection With NeuroTouch, a Virtual Reality Simulator

Operative Neurosurgery 11:89–98, 2015

Validated procedures to objectively measure neurosurgical bimanual psychomotor skills are unavailable. The NeuroTouch simulator provides metrics to determine bimanual performance, but validation is essential before implementation of this platform into neurosurgical training, assessment, and curriculum development.

OBJECTIVE: To develop, evaluate, and validate neurosurgical bimanual performance metrics for resection of simulated brain tumors with NeuroTouch.

METHODS: Bimanual resection of 8 simulated brain tumors with differing color, stiffness, and border complexity was evaluated. Metrics assessed included blood loss, tumor percentage resected, total simulated normal brain volume removed, total tip path lengths, maximum and sum of forces used by instruments, efficiency index, ultrasonic aspirator path length index, coordination index, and ultrasonic aspirator bimanual forces ratio. Six neurosurgeons and 12 residents (6 senior and 6 junior) were evaluated.

RESULTS: Increasing tumor complexity impaired resident bimanual performance significantly more than neurosurgeons. Operating on black vs glioma-colored tumors resulted in significantly higher blood loss and lower tumor percentage, whereas altering tactile cues from hard to soft decreased resident tumor resection. Regardless of tumor complexity, significant differences were found between neurosurgeons, senior residents, and junior residents in efficiency index and ultrasonic aspirator path length index. Ultrasonic aspirator bimanual force ratio outlined significant differences between senior and junior residents, whereas coordination index demonstrated significant differences between junior residents and neurosurgeons.

CONCLUSION: The NeuroTouch platform incorporating the simulated scenarios and metrics used differentiates novice from expert neurosurgical performance, demonstrating NeuroTouch face, content, and construct validity and the possibility of developing brain tumor resection proficiency performance benchmarks.

Frameless robotic stereotactic biopsies: a consecutive series of 100 cases

Frameless robotic stereotactic biopsies- a consecutive series of 100 cases

J Neurosurg 122:342–352, 2015

Stereotactic biopsy procedures are an everyday part of neurosurgery. The procedure provides an accurate histological diagnosis with the least possible morbidity. Robotic stereotactic biopsy needs to be an accurate, safe, frameless, and rapid technique. This article reports the clinical results of a series of 100 frameless robotic biopsies using a Medtech ROSA device.

Methods The authors retrospectively analyzed their first 100 frameless stereotactic biopsies performed with the robotic ROSA device: 84 biopsies were performed by frameless robotic surface registration, 7 were performed by robotic bone fiducial marker registration, and 9 were performed by scalp fiducial marker registration. Intraoperative flat-panel CT scanning was performed concomitantly in 25 cases. The operative details of the robotic biopsies, the diagnostic yield, and mortality and morbidity data observed in this series are reported.

Results A histological diagnosis was established in 97 patients. No deaths or permanent morbidity related to surgery were observed. Six patients experienced transient neurological worsening. Six cases of bleeding within the lesion or along the biopsy trajectory were observed on postoperative CT scans but were associated with transient clinical symptoms in only 2 cases. Stereotactic surgery was performed with patients in the supine position in 93 cases and in the prone position in 7 cases. The use of fiducial markers was reserved for posterior fossa biopsy via a transcerebellar approach, via an occipital approach, or for pediatric biopsy.

Conclusions ROSA frameless stereotactic biopsies appear to be accurate and safe robotized frameless procedures.

Current state-of-the-art and future perspectives of robotic technology in neurosurgery

Current state-of-the-art and future perspectives of robotic technology in neurosurgery-1

Neurosurg Rev (2014) 37:357–366

Neurosurgery is one of the most demanding surgical specialties in terms of precision requirements and surgical field limitations. Recent advancements in robotic technology have generated the possibility of incorporating advanced technological tools to the neurosurgical operating room.

Although previous studies have addressed the specific details of new robotic systems, there is very little literature on the strengths and drawbacks of past attempts, currently available platforms and prototypes in development. In this review, the authors present a critical historical analysis of the development of robotic technology in neurosurgery as well as a comprehensive summary of the currently available systems that can be expected to be incorporated to the neurosurgical armamentarium in the near future.

Finally, the authors present a critical analysis of the main technical challenges in robotic technology development at the present time (such as the design of improved systems for haptic feedback and the necessity of incorporating intraoperative imaging data) as well as the benefits which robotic technology is expected to bring to specific neurosurgical subspecialties in the near future.

Safety and accuracy of robot-assisted versus fluoroscopy-guided pedicle screw insertion for degenerative diseases of the lumbar spine

Robot-assisted spine surgery

J Neurosurg Spine 20:636–643, 2014

Recent years have been marked by efforts to improve the quality and safety of pedicle screw placement in spinal instrumentation. The aim of the present study is to compare the accuracy of the SpineAssist robot system with conventional fluoroscopy-guided pedicle screw placement.

Methods. Ninety-five patients suffering from degenerative disease and requiring elective lumbar instrumentation were included in the study. The robot cohort (Group I; 55 patients, 244 screws) consisted of an initial open robot-assisted subgroup (Subgroup IA; 17 patients, 83 screws) and a percutaneous cohort (Subgroup IB, 38 patients, 161 screws). In these groups, pedicle screws were placed under robotic guidance and lateral fluoroscopic control. In the fluoroscopy-guided cohort (Group II; 40 patients, 163 screws) screws were inserted using anatomical landmarks and lateral fluoroscopic guidance. The primary outcome measure was accuracy of screw placement on the Gertzbein-Robbins scale (Grade A to E and R [revised]). Secondary parameters were duration of surgery, blood loss, cumulative morphine, and length of stay.

Results. In the robot group (Group I), a perfect trajectory (A) was observed in 204 screws (83.6%). The remaining screws were graded B (n = 19 [7.8%]), C (n = 9 [3.7%]), D (n = 4 [1.6%]), E (n = 2 [0.8%]), and R ( n = 6 [2.5%]). In the fluoroscopy-guided group (Group II), a completely intrapedicular course graded A was found in 79.8% (n = 130). The remaining screws were graded B (n = 12 [7.4%]), C (n = 10 [6.1%]), D (n = 6 [3.7%]), and E (n = 5 [3.1%]). The comparison of “clinically acceptable” (that is, A and B screws) was neither different between groups (I vs II [p = 0.19]) nor subgroups (Subgroup IA vs IB [p = 0.81]; Subgroup IA vs Group II [p = 0.53]; Subgroup IB vs Group II [p = 0.20]). Blood loss was lower in the robot-assisted group than in the fluoroscopy-guided group, while duration of surgery, length of stay, and cumulative morphine dose were not statistically different.

Conclusions. Robot-guided pedicle screw placement is a safe and useful tool for assisting spine surgeons in degenerative spine cases. Nonetheless, technical difficulties remain and fluoroscopy backup is advocated.

Robotics in Keyhole Transcranial Endoscope-Assisted Microsurgery

Robotics in Keyhole Transcranial Endoscope-Assisted Microsurgery

Operative Neurosurgery 10:84–96, 2014

Over the past decade, advances in image guidance, endoscopy, and tube-shaft instruments have allowed for the further development of keyhole transcranial endoscope-assisted microsurgery, utilizing smaller craniotomies and minimizing exposure and manipulation of unaffected brain tissue. Although such approaches offer the possibility of shorter operating times, reduced morbidity and mortality, and improved longterm outcomes, the technical skills required to perform such surgery are inevitably greater than for traditional open surgical techniques, and they have not been widely adopted by neurosurgeons. Surgical robotics, which has the ability to improve visualization and increase dexterity, therefore has the potential to enhance surgical performance.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the role of surgical robots in keyhole transcranial endoscopeassisted microsurgery.

METHODS: The technical challenges faced by surgeons utilizing keyhole craniotomies were reviewed, and a thorough appraisal of presently available robotic systems was performed.

RESULTS: Surgical robotic systems have the potential to incorporate advances in augmented reality, stereoendoscopy, and jointed-wrist instruments, and therefore to significantly impact the field of keyhole neurosurgery. To date, over 30 robotic systems have been applied to neurosurgical procedures. The vast majority of these robots are best described as supervisory controlled, and are designed for stereotactic or image-guided surgery. Few telesurgical robots are suitable for keyhole neurosurgical approaches, and none are in widespread clinical use in the field.

CONCLUSION: New robotic platforms in minimally invasive neurosurgery must possess clear and unambiguous advantages over conventional approaches if they are to achieve significant clinical penetration.

Robotics and the spine: a review of current and ongoing applications


Neurosurg Focus 36 (3):E10, 2014

Robotics in the operating room has shown great use and versatility in multiple surgical fields. Robotassisted spine surgery has gained significant favor over its relatively short existence, due to its intuitive promise of higher surgical accuracy and better outcomes with fewer complications. Here, the authors analyze the existing literature on this growing technology in the era of minimally invasive spine surgery.

Methods. In an attempt to provide the most recent, up-to-date review of the current literature on robotic spine surgery, a search of the existing literature was conducted to obtain all relevant studies on robotics as it relates to its application in spine surgery and other interventions.

Results. In all, 45 articles were included in the analysis. The authors discuss the current status of this technology and its potential in multiple arenas of spinal interventions, mainly spine surgery and spine biomechanics testing.

Conclusions. There are numerous potential advantages and limitations to robotic spine surgery, as suggested in published case reports and in retrospective and prospective studies. Randomized controlled trials are few in number and show conflicting results regarding accuracy. The present limitations may be surmountable with future technological improvements, greater surgeon experience, reduced cost, improved operating room dynamics, and more training of surgical team members. Given the promise of robotics for improvements in spine surgery and spine biomechanics testing, more studies are needed to further explore the applicability of this technology in the spinal operating room. Due to the significant cost of the robotic equipment, studies are needed to substantiate that the increased equipment costs will result in significant benefits that will justify the expense.

Pelvic Schwannoma: Robotic Laparoscopic Resection

Pelvic Schwannoma- Robotic Laparoscopic Resection

Neurosurgery 72[ONS Suppl 1]:ons2–ons5, 2013

Schwannoma is a rare benign tumor of peripheral nerves arising from Schwann cells of the ubiquitous nerve sheath.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the operative steps and technical aspects of robotic laparoscopic resection of pelvic schwannoma.

METHODS: We describe 2 patients with pelvic schwannoma: a 34-year-old woman with schwannoma of the right lumbosacral trunk and a 58-year-old woman with schwannoma of a left S1 nerve. Pain was the main symptom in both patients. The diagnosis was confirmed by magnetic resonance imaging and nerve biopsies. Both patients were operated on by robotic laparoscopy.

RESULTS: Lesions were totally enucleated after incising the epineurium. After dissection of the schwannoma, the vascular pedicle and nerve fascicles involved were identified, coagulated, and then sectioned. The remaining fascicles of the nerve were preserved. The postoperative course was uneventful in both patients. With follow-up of 9 and 13 months, both patients obtained complete pain relief with no neurological sequelae. CONCLUSION: Robotic laparoscopic resection of pelvic nerve tumors such as schwannomas is technically feasible.

Merging machines with microsurgery: clinical experience with neuroArm

Merging machines with microsurgery- clinical experience with neuroArm

J Neurosurg 118:521–529, 2013

It has been over a decade since the introduction of the da Vinci Surgical System into surgery. Since then, technology has been advancing at an exponential rate, and newer surgical robots are becoming increasingly sophisticated, which could greatly impact the performance of surgery. NeuroArm is one such robotic system.

Methods. Clinical integration of neuroArm, an MR-compatible image-guided robot, into surgical procedure has been developed over a prospective series of 35 cases with varying pathology.

Results. Only 1 adverse event was encountered in the first 35 neuroArm cases, with no patient injury. The adverse event was uncontrolled motion of the left neuroArm manipulator, which was corrected through a rigorous safety review procedure. Surgeons used a graded approach to introducing neuroArm into surgery, with routine dissection of the tumor-brain interface occurring over the last 15 cases. The use of neuroArm for routine dissection shows that robotic technology can be successfully integrated into microsurgery. Karnofsky performance status scores were significantly improved postoperatively and at 12-week follow-up.

Conclusions. Surgical robots have the potential to improve surgical precision and accuracy through motion scaling and tremor filters, although human surgeons currently possess superior speed and dexterity. Additionally, neuroArm’s workstation has positive implications for technology management and surgical education. NeuroArm is a step toward a future in which a variety of machines are merged with medicine.

Spinal Robotics: Current Applications and Future Perspectives

Robotics Spinal Surgery

Neurosurgery 72:A12–A18, 2013

Even though robotic technology holds great potential for performing spinal surgery and advancing neurosurgical techniques, it is of utmost importance to establish its practicality and to demonstrate better clinical outcomes compared with traditional techniques, especially in the current cost-effective era. Several systems have proved to be safe and reliable in the execution of tasks on a routine basis, are commercially available, and are used for specific indications in spine surgery. However, workflow, usability, interdisciplinary setups, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness have to be proven prospectively.

This article includes a short description of robotic structures and workflow, followed by preliminary results of a randomized prospective study comparing conventional free-hand techniques with routine spine navigation and robotic-assisted procedures. Additionally, we present cases performed with a spinal robotic device, assessing not only the accuracy of the robotic-assisted procedure but also other factors (eg, minimal invasiveness, radiation dosage, and learning curves).

Currently, the use of robotics in spinal surgery greatly enhances the application of minimally invasive procedures by increasing accuracy and reducing radiation exposure for patients and surgeons compared with standard procedures. Second-generation hardware and software upgrades of existing devices will enhance workflow and intraoperative setup. As more studies are published in this field, robot-assisted therapies will gain wider acceptance in the near future.

Neurosurgery Department. “La Fe” University Hospital. Valencia, Spain


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