Inner East Review
Tuesday, 5 December 2023

First robotic spinal surgery performed in Richmond

Updated June 7 2022 - 11:01am, first published 5:00am
Robotic surgery
Robotic surgery

Surgeons at the Epworth Hospital in Richmond have performed spinal surgery using a robotic arm for the first time in Australia.

The patient, Goulburn Valley crop farmer Shauna Miller, is now back on her feet after the historic operation.

Miller battled worsening back pain for months, forcing her to give up working on the farm, which has been in her husband's family since 1890.

Most nights she woke in pain and other treatments had not worked. "The pain was unbearable at times," she said.

"You would take pain killers. They would end up knocking you out and you'd go back to bed until you woke up again."

Miller was referred to spinal surgeon Professor Greg Malham at Epworth Richmond. Prof Malham performed spinal surgery using the CIRQ spinal robot, the first time the CIRQ robotic surgery arm was used in Australia with Brainlab spinal navigation.

"The CIRQ robot is a new innovation to help patients," Prof Malham said. "We can do minimally invasive surgery safer, faster and more accurately, which certainly reduces stress for the surgeon. The minimally invasive surgery means less time in hospital and a faster recovery for the patient."

Prof Malham said the robot is controlled by the surgeon. "The robot is really a guidance arm for the surgeon," he said.

"The surgeon still does the operation, helped by computer-guided navigation, which guides the surgeon to the right spot with millimetre accuracy and locks the robot arm in place.

"The robot is then used as a guide to make the correct incision and decompress a nerve safely".

Brainlab then provides the surgeon with a visual guide to drill into the patient's spine and insert on the pre-planned trajectory, while watching a navigation screen.

Computer navigation guides the surgeon to the right spot with millimetre accuracy

- Prof Greg Malham

Allison Evans, executive general manager, Epworth Richmond, said the hospital had pioneered the use of robotic surgery for almost 20 years. "Epworth was the first hospital group in Australia to use a robot in prostate surgery," Evans said.

"The introduction of the first CIRQ spinal robot in Australia, will help even more patients".

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