The spine tech Dr. Alex Vaccaro is 'enamored' with

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The future of spine surgery lies in navigational technology, Alex Vaccaro, MD, PhD, said.

Dr. Vaccaro, president of Philadelphia-based Rothman Orthopaedic Institute, spoke with Becker's about the potential of navigation and what it will take to widen its access.

Note: This conversation was lightly edited for clarity.

Q: What spine trends are you watching?

Dr. Alex Vaccaro: I'm really becoming enamored with minimally invasive navigational technologies that have more instruments to navigate through vessels and navigate nerves. It's not always perfect. [Recently] I did a very complex spinal deformity case, and it went great. It just took me where I needed to go, and I'm happy with it. 

We have smart tools such as burs that will not injure the spinal cord, it oscillates rather than spins. All these things are navigated now so the incisions can get smaller and smaller, and there's less collateral damage. So that's really the trend. What we need to do now is be able to export this technology into lower-cost centers because it's expensive. Every time you use a robot, it's expensive. 

There's the new business model, where we work with industries so we can take these navigational systems and move them out into ASCs. You want to be able to get in and out of surgery quickly. The minimal blood loss, smaller incision. It's the perfect arena for this type of technology.

Q: What do you think it will take to lower costs for the technology and get it into more ASCs?

AV: The industry will have to get creative. It's like anything else in the world, people will profit as long as they have the opportunity to profit. I think the industry will figure it out, and once they do we'll use it because there's a demand for it. People are paying for it. I'm saying to [the hospital] every day, I could use a robot, I could use augmented reality, I could use virtual reality and I could use navigation. I said, make it affordable for me and I'll use it.

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