By: 3 June 2016
Custom-fitted spinal rods may improve outcomes and cut surgery time

Custom-fitted spinal rods may improve outcomes and cut surgery time

Custom fit is the key when it comes to implanted spinal rods, this need is especially great for people who have a spinal deformity such as scoliosis.

Correcting this deformity involves moving a distorted spine into a different position, which is no simple task. To accomplish it, surgeons attach metal rods to the bones surrounding the spinal column in order to support and straighten the spine.
To perform this demanding procedure, surgeons previously needed to be as much a sculptor as a physician. Over the years, they have mastered the art of cutting, bending and twisting metal rods to fit each patient.

Often, however, this manipulation may create weak spots in the rod where it can break in the future. In addition, the manipulation of the rods traditionally has been done in the operating room during surgery, adding to the time a patient spends in surgery under anaesthesia.

Now, however, advances in medical imaging and implant manufacturing are making it possible to tailor an implant to the patient receiving it.

Matthew Colman has begun using patient-specific rods in reconstructive surgery – giving patients with spinal deformities implants designed to fit their anatomy perfectly. An assistant professor of orthopaedic surgery at Rush University Medical Center, Colman is one of few spinal surgeons in the world who also specialises in spine cancer treatment and was one of the first doctors in Chicago to use these patient specific rods.

The customisation is done in advance of the operation in cooperation with an implant manufacturer. To create the rods, Colman uploads the patient’s calibrated X-rays to a computer. Then he uses a sophisticated software program to plan the reconstructive surgical procedure.

The software allows him to simulate deformity correction and other surgical manoeuvres in order to map out and determine the exact length and shape of the rod. The specifications are sent to the manufacturer, and the finished rod is delivered to Rush.

Because so much of the planning is done before surgery, less time is needed during the operation itself. “When we reduce time in the operating room we help to decrease the chances for infection and blood loss during surgery – and we decrease potential mistakes with the measurements,” Colman says. “In addition, manipulating the rod by hand-bending them may cause them to break more easily, which is theoretically avoided with the custom manufacturing process.”

“The future of implants is in customisation,” Colman says. “New technology is streamlining the process, making surgery more efficient and effective by employing faster and better working methods.”

Source: Science Daily and Rush University