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Mazor X: Revolutionizing Spine Surgery

By James M. Leipzig, M.D., F.A.C.S. on

Welcoming a robot into the operating room may sound like it should be reserved for science fiction, but Virginia Spine Care hopes to soon make us forget it was ever anything but fact. Dr. James Leipzig is one of a handful of surgeons in the United States who has been trained to use Mazor X, a robot used in spine surgeries that revolutionizes both the operation and the patient’s post-op experiences.

 What is Mazor X?

Mazor X is a guidance platform for spine surgeries that allows surgeons to digitally plan the entire treatment strategy before he or she goes into the operating room, down to the placement of even the smallest screw. Jim Carite, a sales manager for Mazor Robotics, compares it to a pilot’s pre-flight plan, ensuring the surgeon knows exactly what to expect, rather than just glancing at the X-rays when he or she enters the OR.

The robot also includes a surgical arm. The arm locks into position to provide a surgical port for the surgeon to operate through and duplicate the pre-operative plan.

Why Mazor X?

For the 10% of surgeons who conduct minimally invasive surgeries, with Dr. Leipzig being one of the first, this technology changes the landscape.  Typically with minimally invasive spine surgeries, there’s an X-ray machine in the room, and to help guide themselves, surgeons consistently take X-rays throughout the procedure to find where they are in the spine. With Mazor X, that’s no longer necessary.

“These guys are good at what they do, but there are variables you can’t see because of 2-D X-rays and 3-D anatomy,” said Carite. “That’s programmed in for the robot, so you don’t need all those X-rays and radiation.”

Additionally, without Mazor X, though the performing surgeons are highly skilled, only about 90 percent of spine implants are placed accurately. The number rises drastically when the robot is involved, with success rates between 98 to 99 percent. Other benefits include a decrease in infection rate, a decrease in revisions, a decrease in length of stay from several days to usually around 23 hours, and better clinical outcomes for the patient.

 Mazor X and Dr. Leipzig

Only around 250 surgeons in the United States have been invited to go through Mazor X training, and the company worked hard to ensure Dr. Leipzig would be one of them.

“We hotly pursued Dr. Leipzig because of his wonderful pedigree,” said Carite. “Roanoke is a very competitive spine market, and he has the pedigree of a thoroughbred race horse.”

Dr. Leipzig completed his training back in September, where he traveled to Mazor X’s facility in Florida to learn about the robot’s software, practice in the cadaveric lab, and train on all types of techniques from conventional spine surgery to minimally invasive.

Dr. Leipzig’s surgery center hopes to have the equipment in the next few months.

“Bringing a robot into a room isn’t easy,” said Carite. “We needed someone with a mind for technology and the skill set to be successful.”

Dr. Leipzig is a Virginia spine surgeon with over two decades of experience. He specializes in procedures including microsurgical lumbar surgery and disc arthroplasty. To learn more about Mazor X or to schedule an appointment, contact his office at (540) 725-9771.


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