Robotic Spine Surgery: How It Works

At Atlantic Brain & Spine, we champion an approach to spine surgeries that combines the benefits of Robotic Guidance Techniques and Minimally Invasive Surgery.

What is Robotic Spine Surgery?

Robotic spine surgery is a minimally invasive surgical technique that implements robotic guidance technology in the operating room, providing surgeons with an advanced level of precision and allowing them to guide the placement of screws and interbody devices with mechanical accuracy not normally possible for a human. 

What are the Benefits of Robotic Spine Surgery?

Using Robotic Guidance reduces the need for intraop x-rays and also reduces radiation exposure for patients and OR staff. It eliminates the error caused by the human hand and reduces procedure time once the learning curve is overcome. And minimally invasive techniques benefit the patient greatly: there are smaller incisions, minimized scarring, shorter hospital stays, less postoperative pain and faster recovery times.

By combining both approaches, our lead spine surgeon, Dr. Jae Lim, is able to give patients the best results for spinal surgeries available today. Because patients are curious about now Robotic Guidance Techniques actually work, we thought it would be helpful to walk you through the process here.

It’s important to note that when we say Robotic Spine Surgery, we do not mean that a machine will be operating on you. Robotic Guidance means that we use technologically advanced equipment and software to plan, model, and implant surgical devices. This allows our surgeons a microscopic level of precision when they operate. Below, is a brief overview of this procedure.

Pre-Operative Blueprint

Robotic Spine Surgery procedures are complex, technologically advanced processes that begin before the patient or surgeon enters the operating room. Using the state-of-the-art Mazor Robotics Renaissance Guidance System, we begin by creating a preoperative blueprint on the system’s proprietary software.

First, the patient’s CT scan is uploaded to create a detailed, three-dimensional model of the spine. This assessment of the anatomy is much more precise than X-rays and helps the surgeon determine the optimal implant sizes for better bone purchase and strategic placement. The surgeon can view the model of the spine in axial (longitudinal), lateral (perpendicular) and AP (anteroposterior, or front-to-back) views, giving him a full picture of how best to complete the procedure.


Once planning is complete, a mounting platform is selected. Whether the procedure is open or minimally invasive, the Renaissance Guidance System allows for four different mounting platforms. Each platform rigidly attaches to the patient’s spine to ensure maximum accuracy. This level of precision is maintained even if patient movement occurs.

3D Sync

After the mounting platform is secured, we then complete a three-dimensional sync that matches the intraoperative anatomy with the pre-operative blueprint created in the first stage of the process. This allows the Robotic Guidance system to operate with a higher level of precision than is capable with the human hand.

We achieve the sync by attaching a 3D marker to the mount. From this, two fluoroscopic images are taken— one AP and one oblique. Then, the Guidance System matches the intraoperative images to their corresponding location on the pre-operative CT scan. The system’s software allows for a microscopic level of detail, independently registering each vertebrae regardless of changes in intervertebral space.


Once the 3D sync is complete, the surgeon is ready to operate. Using the Robotic Guidance system’s software, we select a target vertebrae. The software displays a precise instruction of where to attach the guidance unit. Once attached, the guidance unit is sent the pre-plan trajectory, which allows our surgeon to instrument with 1.5 millimeter accuracy.

This process continues until all trajectories have been executed and implants are safely placed in the planned location.

Robotic Spine Surgery

Learn More

If you have more questions about Robotic Spine Surgery or would like to schedule a consultation to discuss surgical and non-surgical treatment options, please contact our office by phone at 703-876-4270 or by email at [email protected].

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Atlantic Brain and Spine A graduate of both Yale and Stanford, Dr. Jae Lim is a board-certified spine surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive spine surgery and robotic spine surgery, significantly reducing surgical impact and recovery times. (703) 876-4270
8501 Arlington Blvd. Suite 330
United States
Jae Y. Lim Ben L. Nguyen