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$1M donation leads to advancements in spinal robotics in Atlantic Canada

A major donation will help advance spinal robotics in Atlantic Canada. The funding will not only help patients but create opportunities in research and training. (QEII Foundation - image credit)
A major donation will help advance spinal robotics in Atlantic Canada. The funding will not only help patients but create opportunities in research and training. (QEII Foundation - image credit)

Irving Shipbuilding Inc. has donated $1 million for the advancement of spinal robotics technology in Atlantic Canada, an investment one neurosurgeon says will ultimately save lives.

The company has pledged the funds to the QEII Health Sciences Centre to help patients in need of spinal surgery.

Dr. Sean Christie, a neurosurgeon and professor in neurosurgery at the Halifax Infirmary and Dalhousie University, said the new technology will not only help patients but create opportunities in research and training around spinal robotics.

"I think the biggest thing is that we're delivering a personalized treatment plan faster and better, so that ultimately the person is going to have a more meaningful outcome from surgery and be able to get back to their day-to-day life," Christie said.

The new technology is a robotics system "that uses 3D cameras and anatomy recognition algorithms to develop a 3D simulation of the robotic procedure, which can be planned and visualized prior to the actual surgery or in real-time in the operating room," according to a media release Wednesday.

Precise guidance

Robotic-assisted technology provides guidance for precise human-controlled surgeries.

Christie has worked with advanced robotics before. In 2022, he and his team made Canadian medical history with the first spinal robotic surgery performed at the QEII Health Sciences Centre.

Shannon Nearing, one of Christie's patients, had robot-assisted spinal surgery for a degenerative disc in her lower back.

"I have two little grandsons and I can walk with them and play with them and get down on the floor with them," Nearing said. "It's just the best gift."

'We're developing knowledge'

The release says the QEII Foundation has a goal of raising $3 million to fully fund accessing spinal robotic equipment.

Susan Mullin, president and CEO of the QEII Foundation, said to have this technology and opportunity is exciting.

"We're developing knowledge about how we can influence how robotics evolve to serve us better," Mullin said.

According to the release, the use of this technology can lead to "shorter hospital stays, fewer infections, less blood loss and quicker recoveries."

"I mean we are very fortunate," Christie said. "I don't think anybody would question the fact that our health system is under strain but there is a lot of foresight and there's a lot of work that's going on."

The advanced technology — the MAZOR X Stealth Edition — combines a robotic arm and an advanced surgical navigation system. It is used for patients needing spinal implants, screws and rods.

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