Unique surgery workshop uses robots and real spines

Twenty five of Australia’s upcoming surgical trainees and fellows used real human spines and robotic simulations to fast forward their understanding of, and skills development in, complex spinal surgery techniques during a unique surgical workshop in Adelaide last weekend (15-16 July).

Flinders University’s Medical Device Research Institute (MDRI) welcomed the group, organised by the Spine Society of Australia and sponsored by Medtronic, to Flinders’ innovation precinct at Tonsley, where they were able to combine their surgical skills training with biomechanical testing using the MDRI’s award-winning Hexapod robot.

Associate Professor John Costi and the team were able to test segments of spine in the hexapod before and after surgical reconstruction to demonstrate how stable the spine is before and after the procedure.

“What sets this workshop apart from others is that it allowed some of Australia’s most talented up and coming surgeons to examine the biomechanical properties of the human spine following surgical interventions and receive feedback on the success, or otherwise, of each intervention,” said Associate Professor Costi.

“The information gathered allowed the surgeons to see first-hand the effects of surgical techniques on the stability of the spine, which is particularly important for trainee surgeons.

“The type of data and knowledge we can obtain in just a matter of hours using the Hexapod Robot is instrumental in informing and improving how we perform future spine surgeries.

“This was an incredibly exciting opportunity to bring together surgical training with direct biomechanical evaluation of surgical procedures.”

The testing demonstrated the effects of instability and then restabilisation after surgical reconstruction of the cervical and thoracolumbar spine segments.

“I believe that this combination of surgical skills training with biomechanical testing is an Australian first,” Associate Professor Costi adds.

Flinders University’s Six Degree of Freedom Hexapod Robot was awarded the 2012 Engineering Excellence South Australian Award for Innovation/Research and Development and also the Malcolm Kinnaird Engineering Excellence Award (the highest accolade).

It also placed 2nd internationally for the National Instruments Impact Awards in 2016.

Located at Flinders’ Tonsley campus, the Hexapod Robot is one of the world’s most advanced testing systems and is an exemplar of the high caliber capabilities and facilities driving innovative research at Tonsley.

The Hexapod provides accurate and more realistic 3D loading of joints and implants under different load conditions and movements, allowing the simulation of hundreds of complex movements.

For more information about the Hexapod Robot and the Biomechanics and Implants research group at Flinders University, visit the MDRI website www.flinders.edu.au/mdri

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