New robots at Lourdes, Trios will help surgeons navigate spinal procedures

PASCO, Wash. — For the first time, two Tri-Cities hospitals will be able to bring robotics into spine surgery.

LifePoint Health, which now owns Lourdes Medical Center and Trios Hospital, invested several million dollars into the new technology.

“The doctors are ecstatic,” said Richard Moller, the surgical director for both hospitals.

Each hospital has received a robot that features a fixed, mechanical arm that can hold tools that are used in posterior spine surgeries; for example, a fractured vertebrae. Ahead of the procedure, photos will be taken of the patient. The doctor can then map a “route” for the procedure ahead of time and then watch a live image of the procedure on a computer as it’s happening.

“It’s similar to navigation in your car,” said Moller. “It gives you your GPS for the whole procedure.”

One benefit of the robot is the increase in steadiness and accuracy. For example, when a surgeon is going in and out of the bone to put in a screw, sometimes their hand may go a little too far, or the screw may not be put in exactly the right place. If something like that happens, it slows the process, possibly exposing the staff to more radiation.

“This will not allow that to happen, and it’s constantly measuring and showing a live image at all times to the doctor,” said Moller. “ It reduces a lot of time and potential injury to patients.”

Additionally, the robot allows for smaller incisions to be made, potentially shortening a patient’s recovery time. The robots are also mobile, which means they aren’t limited to doing these kinds of surgeries in one room.

Moller said at Lourdes alone, they conduct about 300 of these kinds of surgeries every year.

“This is a very common procedure,” he said. “There are a lot of spine patients in Tri-Cities, so this is going to bring a lot of relief to them.”

Mollers said at Lourdes they’ve been hoping for one of these robots for about two and a half years, and they got the news that both Trios and Lourdes would be getting one in December. The first use of the new tools is expected to happen at both hospitals sometime in February.