Memorial Hermann Katy’s new robotic navigation system is improved and expands on the traditional spinal surgery.

HOUSTON – back pain can be a typical reason for disability that affects up to 80 percent of Americans at one point in their lives. It can affect the ability to sleep, move and perform everyday activities. In certain instances, it may become fatal. But the research that has been conducted is leading to creation of surgical technology and techniques that are less risky more precise and effective in the treatment of pain. Here, Memorial Hermann neurosurgeon Dr. Wesley H. Jones reviews the most recent advances in medical treatment.

Back pain is a common issue that can be severe and may come from a variety of reasons. This makes it an issue to manage?

Dr. Jones: Absolutely. The spine is a single joint that is made up of several smaller joints that are connected by muscles and ligaments and nerves. They’re designed to work in perfect harmony to aid motion, posture, and so on. Each of these smaller joints could result in pain, and this can an imbalance in muscles or neurological injury. The process of identifying the cause of pain isn’t easy since, more often than not the same issue can trigger another, and pain may end appearing in various places. It is important to pinpoint an area of the body that is the most important or primary pain-generating source. The first step is to take an exhaustive medical history and physical examination to determine the best treatment options, either early or diagnostic which may require many specialists. The current treatment for back discomfort is an integrated approach that involves a range of healthcare professionals and doctors working together to offer treatments that meet the individual needs of the patient. We employ a patient-centered method in Memorial Hermann, and our aim is to select the most effective treatment for each patient to enhance their level of living.

Q What is the best time to have someone suffering from back discomfort see a physician?

Dr. Jones: Without question the need to see an expert physician if you’re experiencing any symptoms of neurological injury like dizziness or losing balance, vision changes. Also, extreme pain that is sudden to the point where you are unable to move. For pain, the standard rule is that if pain persists and is significantly impacting someone’s life quality or ability to perform the things they require or would like to perform you should consult an expert. It’s not always necessary to begin with a surgeon. Typically, you begin with your primary care doctor. Based on the signs of symptoms or signs, people are typically offered a test of conservative therapies that might consist of physical therapy or injections, in addition to different diagnostic procedures. Another reason not to delay seeing your doctor is that you could take an issue that is not too significant and worsen it as time passes by not getting at least an examination. If a small problem is that is not treated, can turn into an issue that is much more serious and may lead to other problems that are more difficult to address over the long term.

Q How has treatment changed in the last few times?

Dr. Jones: From a surgical perspective We’re using less invasive procedures that are gentle on patients. These procedures reduce the risk of surgery as well as reduce the time hospital stays and facilitate faster recuperation, leading to improved outcomes for patients. However the basic concepts of surgery remain the same, but technological advances and innovative surgical techniques have enabled us to add new instruments to our toolbox. Here at Memorial Hermann Katy, we’re just launching a brand new robotic navigation system that will enhance our capabilities to carry out the most advanced procedures.

Q What are the advantages of the robot navigation platform?

Dr. Jones: This robotic navigation system is the first to be developed in Texas and is among the first of its kind in the U.S. It integrates intraoperative imaging with robotic navigation. This lets us perform surgeries faster and more precisely. The robot platform can precisely monitor the movements that surgical tools make and give real-time feedback, enhancing the effectiveness of the procedure. It also opens up better avenues to collect more reliable and precise surgical information. This opens up possibilities for further technological advancements such as the development of predictive models that are based on specific risk factors for anatomical or patient-specific. But, I am convinced that in no way could a robot disrupt the human element of the relationship between patient and doctor, or substitute for the judgment of a skilled surgeon. Robotics, as with other technologies, must be considered an aid to us and not substitute us. If used correctly absolutely it could help you become better surgeon. It’s also more beneficial for your patient. This is the only thing that is important.

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This content is sponsored by Memorial Hermann Health System