While reading a Becker Spine article recently about what 2021 might look like for spine surgery, it struck me that there were a number of common views expressed by the 13 surgeons interviewed.
Of course, the impact of COVID-19 was an overarching theme, both in terms of its effect on spine surgery capacity and the increased reticence of patients to potentially consider non time-critical surgery, at least for the coming months. However, looking outside of this, the most common views expressed by the surgeons were regarding:
– the need to improve the precision both of the planning and the procedure phases of the surgery;
– the trend towards increasing outpatient surgeries;
– the increasing willingness to depend on new technologies that are often Artificial Intelligence (AI)-enabled;
– the need to continually drive costs down, to mirror the similar trajectory of reimbursement.
Attending a number of conferences, both physical and virtual in the last 12 months, I experienced a growing awareness of 3D imaging and printing in medicine. Coupling this with the opinions expressed by the cohort of surgeons in the article, it’s likely that these technologies will be adopted at scale for many types of complex spine surgeries.
These technologies are becoming the gold standard of care for congenital deformities such as Scoliosis.
Having an accurate 3D model of the patient’s anatomy allows for a comprehensive understanding of the overall anatomical variation of the spine, as well as its 3D rotation. Having this understanding of the multilayered anatomy and its arrangements also enables precise pedicle screw fixation, making procedures less invasive and reducing the length of the patient’s stay in hospital.
Given the precision that these new technologies can provide, surgeons need not rely on the smorgasbord of traditional spinal surgeries but can select the best systems for their patients’ needs, driving down costs and speeding up patient recovery. Leaning on these technologies routinely has previously been prohibitive in medicine with respect to both the time and monetary investment. However, with the advent of supporting technology advancements, such as AI, these solutions are more accessible than ever.
As we begin to get a semblance of normality back to hospitals and everyday living it is inevitable that the willingness to adapt to and adopt new technology will continue to increase. This will lead to new and more effective ways of working which will pave the way for the ‘new routine’ standard of care, incorporating technologies such as 3D printing and imaging into everyday spine surgery.