A Revolution in Spine Surgery

January 23, 2024

New robotic technology can mean fewer complications and a faster recovery.

When neurosurgeon Justin Spooler, MD, takes on a complicated spine surgery, he has a trusted assistant by his side: Globus ExcelsiusGPS. Using X-rays and image guidance, the robotic technology guides Dr. Spooler to the exact location to insert screws and other stabilizing hardware for patients with traumatic injuries, tumors or spinal degeneration. That pinpoint accuracy allows for smaller incisions and faster recovery time. 

As the first hospital in the San Fernando Valley with access to the Globus ExcelsiusGPS system, Providence Holy Cross Medical Center is honored to be able to offer this revolutionary surgical advance. Since the hospital acquired the technology in 2022, several hundred patients have benefited from the minimally invasive surgery—in some cases leaving the hospital the same day.

We spoke with Dr. Spooler about this game-changing technology and what it means for treating his patients.

What drew you to neurosurgery originally?

The nervous system is one of the organs we know the least about, and the most difficult to study. But with surgical interventions you have the opportunity to make a really big change in somebody’s life. That really appeals to me.

What are the benefits of this kind of robotic surgery?

Traditionally, we’ve had to make a long incision to expose enough of the spinal area for the freehand placement of screws. With ExcelsiusGPS, we use just two or three X-rays to teach the robot the patient’s anatomy and then make just a few small incisions. Ultimately the surgeon is still the one inserting the screws. But you have a much smaller wound and a more rapid healing process.

Many patients can be apprehensive about spinal surgery. How do you ease their fears?

The most important thing is education—having a very frank conversation about what we’re recommending, how it’s done and what the outcomes are. Once people have a better understanding about the procedure, a lot of that anxiety dissipates. It’s also important to have a solid goal in mind. Having a North Star to shoot for can really help patients through difficult times.

What does recovery look like after robot-assisted spine surgery?

I usually aim to have people up and walking the same day or within 48 hours, depending on the procedure. Most people are up and around fairly quickly. Recovery from traditional surgery used to take eight to twelve weeks, sometimes longer. Now we’re seeing more like six to eight weeks, with people going back to work and resuming normal activity more quickly as well. I saw a gentleman in his seventies for a follow-up last week. Prior to his surgery last year, he couldn’t walk more than a couple hundred yards. Now he’s back to Cuban salsa dancing once a week. 

Why should a patient choose Providence Holy Cross for spine care?

We take care of everything from difficult trauma to simple degenerative disc disease. We’ve got great technology, and great nursing and operating-room staff. More generally, we’re seeing an exponential growth in treatment options, both in neuroscience and other disciplines as well. It’s an exciting time to be in medicine.

Previously published in Providence Holy Cross Medical Center's Health Matters Fall 2023 Issue.

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