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cobb angle on scoliosis - Courtesy Mazor Robotics

Photo courtesy of Mazor Robotics

How many people can say they have seen a spine…in a living person?  I can!  I saw a spine!

Recently, I was called upon by Lionstar Films to shoot for Mazor Robotics—a company that makes a machine which allows doctors’ who perform corrective scoliosis surgery to be more precise than ever before.  To see this machine in action, you have to actually go into the operating room.

After “scrubbing out”, which means changing clothes into all sterile medical scrubs including everything from a hat and face mask down to booties over your shoes, and then having one of the operating room staff instruct us as to the rules of where we could go and could NOT go once inside, we were ready to enter.

We spent 5 hours in the OR, watching as the lead doctor and his team used drills, mallets and many other tools to install a lot of hardware into the patient’s back.  This was done in conjunction with this strange looking, bracket type of thing that actually is controlled by what they call the “robot”.

But to make the “robot” work to it’s full potential, way before the scalpel touches skin, the doctor puts CT scans and 3-D models of the person’s spine into the machine so they can map where to place the hardware.  There is a variety of screws and metal rods that are actually attached to the patient’s spine and then adjusted to correct the curvature and twist of the spine that occurs due to scoliosis.  Once the surgery is over and they are sewn up, this hardware acts as an internal brace.  It was a pretty incredible process to see.

This was not my first time shooting video in the operating room, but it was my first time really thinking about how this person’s life was going to be changed afterward.  The second half of the story was to interview a patient who had had the same surgery during the summer of 2010.  This young woman…is a pole-vaulter.  So, after seeing corrective hardware attached to one person’s spine, I got to see another person with the same surgery do the pole vault.

Talk about an impressive before and after!