Spine surgery can be a nerve-racking topic, particularly considering it involves the nerve center that governs movement. But for 49-year-old Rewa Ward, spine surgery was exactly what she needed to regain her quality of life! “I’d do it all again; I didn’t hesitate,” she explained with delight and laughter. Rewa's back-pain journey is rooted in a family history of vertebrae degeneration. Previous less invasive options didn’t offer the relief she wanted for her active lifestyle. A spinal fusion quickly became the best, last option. As it turns out, her Centura Health community hospital, Avista, just acquired amazing new technology that promised better results for patients – the MazorX Stealth Edition surgical robot. Rewa and her surgeon Dr. Tripp Nanney would be the first to use it at Avista. Dr. Nanney says, “The new robot makes the accuracy and precision of spinal instrumentation much higher and therefore faster and safer than any technology yet developed.”
Previously, spine surgeons would rely on ‘freehand’ techniques and x-rays to place screws and rods. With the assistance of the new robot, surgeons can more precisely track the position of instruments in relation to a patient’s anatomy, improving accuracy. This is critical in operations like Rewa’s, where the spinal cord and vital organs might be only two or three millimeters away. It also means less time under anesthetic, fewer x-rays, smaller incisions, and faster recovery. Being the first to undergo surgery with the new technology was a welcome surprise for Rewa, who says, “I remember thinking it was absolutely fantastic. To know doctors can work in tandem with technology for the betterment of us - I think it’s awesome! And I’m extraordinarily happy.”
The other benefit to Avista’s new robot is the ability to address more of the community who are suffering from back pain - low back pain is the leading cause of disability in the world, and 80 percent of U.S. adults will experience back pain at some point in their lives. Dr. Nanney says, “Back pain is often not surgical, but this robot is a new tool that might open some doors to people who weren't great candidates before now.” Avista director of surgical services Calvin Smith, adds, “This robot gives our patients the latest in medical technology, as good as anywhere else in the world. So, when they choose to have surgery, they can schedule at their community hospital with confidence that their surgeon and surgical team will have access to all the tools they need to give them the best outcome possible.”
Several weeks out from surgery, Rewa says for the first time in a long time she’s living without constant pain. She’s finally able to walk, sit and sleep in peace and says, “I’m still in the recovery phase and will continue rehab for some time, but I’m pain-free, and that makes me very happy.” She adds, “Spine surgery is a personal decision, having done it, I don’t think people need to be afraid. There are such advances in technology and medicine, and amazing surgeons like Dr. Nanney - it’s OK to put faith in them, and I wouldn’t have done it any other way.” Dr. Nanney adds, “The fact that our small community hospital has built such a comprehensive spine program and now is one of the few hospitals in all of Denver metro and Colorado to have a spine robot is truly an exceptional accomplishment that sets it apart from much larger hospitals, even from academic centers, and is a real gem for those in our community who are struggling with problems of the spine that may require and benefit from surgical intervention.”
Avista’s Surgical Robot program was recently featured on Denver’s NBC affiliate KUSA.