O-Arm surgery offers promising results for spinal surgery patients

SAN ANTONIO - A device called the O-arm is revolutionizing spinal surgery, doctors said.

The robotic arm rotates around the patient in the operating room and gives doctors a real-time, 3D look at how the surgery is progressing. 

"It's like getting a CT scan while you're still in the operating room, so that if anything is out of place, we can fix it immediately," said Dr. Jonathan Duncan, an orthopaedic spine surgeon at San Antonio Orthopaedic Group and Baptist Health System.  

The O-Arm navigation technology uses 2D and 3D technology, encircling the patient on the table, which eliminates the need to wheel that person into radiology during or after surgery. 

Surgeons can literally see the patient's spine during the operation, giving them a clear, live view if changes need to be made. 

"It can also be a tool, hopefully, to prevent unnecessary surgeries or repeat surgeries or revision surgeries because of misplaced screws or spinal instruments," Duncan said.

Which is critical for patients like Louann Thompson, who endured multiple surgeries on her spine for scoliosis, degenerative disc disease and spinal deformities. 

"I had in my left leg a very sharp, horrible pain ... that left me unable to walk," Thompson said. 

Suffering excruciating pain, Thompson remained in bed for 45 days before undergoing surgery with Duncan, who inserted spacers into her discs and hardware to support her spine.  

"He went through my front and took out everything and cleaned up the front, and then they rotated me like a rotisserie chicken and did the same thing from the back," Thompson said.

The surgery stabilized Thompson's spine to prevent further pain and degeneration. 

"My mobility is better. I feel more stable," she said.

The O-Arm also utilizes 3D navigational technology -- GPS, like in your car, to help locate the critical points in the patient's spine. 

And it's all done without ever moving the patient.

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