Orthopedic surgery competition to be driven by tech innovation in 2024: Dr. Alex Vaccaro

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Innovation with new technology such as augmented reality and robotics will have a great impact on competition in the orthopedic surgery industry, according to Alex Vaccaro, MD, PhD.

Dr. Vaccaro is president of the Rothman Orthopaedic Institute in Philadelphia. He recently spoke with Becker's about how competition is evolving in the spine and orthopedic industries.

Editor's note: Responses were lightly edited for clarity and length.

Question: How is competition in the spine and orthopedic industries evolving in 2024?

Dr. Alex Vaccaro: Spine and orthopedic surgery are evolving with the advent and incorporation of new technology aimed at improving surgical safety, efficiency and, in turn, patient outcomes. Within this dynamic landscape, industry and surgeons are collaborating to move away from traditional "harmful" intraoperative tools such as fluoroscopy to other means of intraoperative location and navigation such as AR/VR and robotic technology. On the recent horizon are smart tools such as burs and drills that will not injure soft tissue and motorized instruments that will automatically turn off when the impedance changes so as to avoid intracanal dural injury. Soon also to be developed are hand-held tools that are designed to detect the presence of vessels and nerves so as to reach the target tissue percutaneously without neurovascular injury. These developments are the result of effective communication and teamwork between those producing and those using this technology, with variable levels of adoption and success reflective of these partnerships.

In 2024, there will be an unprecedented emphasis on surgical navigation and robotics. Competition between various platforms will center around how easily these capabilities can be incorporated into operative workflows and, more importantly, how they augment surgical abilities. Foremost, safety must be ensured. With respect to surgical navigation, accuracy and faithfulness to planned hardware placement is paramount. With regard to robotics, seamless incorporation of imaging guidance into effector placement is key.

Thus, in this exciting time, competition will be driven by innovation. In the fields of spine and orthopedic surgery, technology is increasingly being utilized not only to develop new hardware, but also to devise tools which can more safely and efficiently guide a surgeon intraoperatively. Surgical navigation, robotics and smart tools represent the forefront of this evolving arena with surgeons and the industry working together to realize their potential.

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