Where spine disruption is happening


The spine surgery industry has seen major shifts in recent years. Here are three areas to watch.

Enabling technologies: Spine robotic adoption has continued to grow this year, and with developments in artificial intelligence and augmented reality, the technology will only increase its precision to boost surgeon efficiency and improve patient recovery. It's also getting easier for spine surgeons with minimally invasive TLIF experience to integrate robots in their practice, according to a study published in the journal Spine.

"Newer generation robots will greatly alter workflows, with the ability for faster and accurate registration, segmental registration with live tracking, enhanced planning software, and the ability to perform powerful surgical tasks such as facet decortication, retractor placement, amongst others," Daniel Kim, MD, of Birmingham, Ala.-based Andrews Sports Medicine & Orthopaedic Center said. "Enhanced speed, accuracy and ability will result in significantly enhanced adoption."

Medtech industry mergers: It was a banner year for devicemaker mergers. Along with large company deals making headlines this year, smaller devicemakers eyed the merger and acquisition space. Most recently Relievant Medsystems was snapped up by Boston Scientific in a more than $850 million deal. Spine surgeons have projected the trend to continue but some are also worried about how the deals could affect innovation.   

"On the one hand, mergers could potentially result in the development of more advanced and integrated technologies, offering enhanced tools for effective surgeries," Rafid Kasir, MD, of San Diego Orthopaedic Associates Medical Group, said. "However, there is also a concern that consolidation might limit competition and innovation, potentially impacting patient access to a diverse range of cutting-edge solutions. I am overall cautious of any mergers that limit diversity in the market. In the long term, this diminished competition can lead to less innovation, higher prices, and fewer choices for medical devices and technologies. In a diverse market, multiple companies bring their unique approaches to problem-solving and product development, fostering a richer ecosystem of options."

Outpatient migration: More spine patients are preferring outpatient cases over in-hospital stays, according to 2022 data from Cureus. The small study found 30 out of 58 spine patients preferred the ASC. This year spine surgeon Amy Wickman, MD, moved transforaminal lumbar interbody fusions to the ASC and said the shift can be beneficial for physicians and patients alike.

"I think it makes for a great opportunity for patients to be able to care for themselves at home and probably have a little bit of a better recovery period," she said. "They tend to be really good with staying on top of their medications and getting up and about for walks, as opposed to being in the hospital where maybe they have to wait a half an hour or 45 minutes for someone to bring them their medications. I think it just has great potential to actually make the recovery for patients much better."

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