Spine surgery robot provides extra precision
South Denver Neurosurgery has long been performing sacroiliac (SI) joint surgery using minimally invasive techniques. But now, surgery to treat SI joint pain is getting even more precise. That’s because we’ve added the Mazor robot to our surgical toolbox.
Mazor is a surgical robot that assists with navigation around the spine. It’s a bit like the GPS in your car, except this system operates in millimeters rather than miles.
Enhancing Robotic Spine Surgery
Mazor uses imaging and 3-D analytic software to map the patient’s body and allows the physician to create a detailed surgical plan before stepping into the OR. It helps the surgeon know exactly where to make the incisions and precisely where to insert instruments. This results in smaller incisions that damage less tissue. The Mazor robot provides real-time guidance throughout the procedure allowing the surgeon to accurately navigate to and around the surgical site.
During SI joint surgery, small titanium implants are placed in the spine to stabilize the joint. The Mazor device helps ensure the implants are positioned in exactly the right spot for maximum pain relief.
What Causes Sacroiliac Joint Pain?
SI joint dysfunction is responsible for 25 to 50 percent of low back pain cases. In other words, pain you may be blaming on the lumbar region could actually be stemming from your SI joint.
One of the major causes of SI joint pain is prior spine fusion in the lower back. By fusing vertebrae, normal motion of the back is constrained. As a result, that movement is transferred to the SI joint.
The SI joint is where the spine meets the pelvis. While the joint is rather large, it moves very little. When it is forced or allowed to move more, pain occurs.
Another leading cause of SI joint dysfunction is pregnancy. During pregnancy, the woman’s body produces hormones that relax the ligaments surrounding the pelvis in preparation for childbirth. But that loosening means the SI joint isn’t properly supported, leading to pain.
Other causes of SI joint pain include arthritis, injury or trauma, and muscle tightness.
Symptoms of SI Joint Dysfunction
The hallmark symptom of SI joint dysfunction is lower back pain that favors one side, but it can affect both sides as well. Other symptoms include:
- Pain that extends into the buttock and leg, similar to sciatica
- Hip pain
- Pain with sitting or standing for long periods
- Discomfort when bending over
Lying down usually offers relief; however, sleeping on the affected side may increase pain.
Before Choosing SI Joint Fusion Surgery
Surgery isn’t the only option to treat SI joint dysfunction. And, in fact, it’s never the first option. Most cases of SI joint dysfunction will resolve with non-operative treatment. We typically recommend patients begin treating SI joint pain with ice and anti-inflammatory medication. If that doesn’t work, prescribed stretches or physical therapy may be in order. Sometimes a brace is recommended to help support the joint.
If conservative therapies fail, injections may be tried. Some injections can provide up to a year of pain relief. But if pain persists for six months or longer, we start looking at joint fusion surgery.
Getting the Right Diagnosis for SI Joint Dysfunction
Historically, SI joint dysfunction has been widely under-diagnosed. Often, those patients have had other treatments — and surgeries, including fusion — recommended to no avail. Getting the proper diagnosis from a spine specialist familiar with SI joint dysfunction is important as treatment for generalized low-back pain won’t work on SI joint dysfunction.
If you have the symptoms listed above, please schedule an assessment with South Denver Neurosurgery at 720-996-1260.