Dr. Ngu

Humble Surgical Hospital performs robotic spinal surgeries

For decades, robots working in tandem with humans existed solely in the realm of science fiction. From Rosie tending to the Jetson's household affairs to Will Smith and Bruce Willis each battling armies of automatons in more recent movies, robots in popular culture have been consistently depicted as sentient humanoids capable of reason and a certain degree of free will. In the modern medical world, outside the purview of visionary authors and filmmakers, robotics join the stethoscope and x-ray as another apparatus in a doctor's toolbox to ensure the best care possible.

Humble Surgical Hospital (HSH) became the first hospital in the North Houston area to delve into robotic spinal surgery, acquiring the Renaissance, a surgical guidance system developed by Mazor Robotics, in late October. Although the Renaissance hardly conjures memories of C-3PO shuffling about, for Dr. Bonaventure Ngu, an orthopedic surgeon at HSH, it provides a welcomed reassurance that his operations have the type of accuracy only made possible by machine.

"(The Renaissance) is very, very precise," Ngu said. "As a surgeon, you have more confidence that what you're doing is right and exact."

As of publication, three of Ngu's patients have undergone surgery using the Renaissance, the first of which was Donna Parker who suffered from a spinal cyst and herniated disc. After the conditions were revealed on an MRI, Ngu recommended immediate surgery, but Parker needed to postpone the procedure to prepare for her daughter's upcoming wedding. Once the nuptials were completed, Parker let Ngu complete the surgery with the Renaissance by inserting screws into her back.

"When you see my x-ray, the screws are all perfectly aligned, even and straight," Parker said. "I've had to be careful during recovery, because of nerve damage from the cyst, but the pain is gone from my back. I would recommend (the Renaissance) to anyone considering the same procedure."

The second patient, Victor Loscuito, suffered vocational limitations as a mechanic, stemming from what was revealed to be two herniated discs and two levels of degenerative disc disease.

"I had a lot of limitations," Loscuito said. "I couldn't do any lifting, and anything I tried to do was more or less guarded, because I didn't know what was going to hurt."

After the procedure, Loscuito recovered quickly and was walking within a month. According to Ngu an expedited recovery is one of many benefits the Renaissance offers when compared to traditional, manual surgery.

"There's less scar tissue due to smaller incisions," Ngu said. "Smaller scars typically mean faster recovery. The whole process is interesting, because you leave the operating with the confidence of knowing all the screws are in the right place with accuracy within one millimeter. For many doctors, this will be the new way of doing surgery. For others, it's just one more option."

According to Mika Rao, HSH director of public relations, the key incentive to acquiring the Renaissance was being able to offer speedier recovery times to patients.

"In the past, when doctors performed spinal surgery, recovery times were typically long," Rao said. "The key difference now is providing a quick recovery from this procedure."

Each patient who has undergone surgery using the Renaissance is facing a promising recovery, providing encouraging support for the prospects of robotics in medicine going forward. As more professionals adopt the technology, innovators will develop even more creative and complex uses for robotics. Although Mazor Robotics' Renaissance is not nearly as advanced as Skynet, it still signifies a groundbreaking achievement in both robotics and medicine. For more information on Humble Surgical Hospital, visit To learn more about the Renaissance Surgical Guidance System, go to

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