One of the robots took 3D images during the surgery. One of the robots took 3D images during the surgery. One of the robots took 3D images during the surgery. (Photo: Courtesy)

In world first, 2 robots perform surgery to help man walk again

Operation is the latest in a line of futuristic procedures.

For Aharon Schwartz, a 42-year-old factory worker in Jerusalem, it was supposed to be a normal day. Get up, eat breakfast, go to work. But then the unexpected happened: he was injured when a steel object pinned him to the ground, fracturing his leg in two places and breaking six of his spinal vertebrae.

"The pain was unbearable, and I couldn’t move," Schwartz told reporters afterwards. He thought he might never walk again.

Schwartz was taken to Israel's Hadassah Hospital where he received a one-of-a-kind surgery – it was performed by two robots. No, this wasn't a scene from a science fiction movie. This actually happened.

One robot provided real-time three-dimensional imaging during the procedure, which eliminated the need for pre-surgery CT scans and post-surgery X-rays. Meanwhile, a second robot helped place the screws into the spinal implant in Schwartz's back. Doctors are calling it the world's first-of-its-kind dual robotic surgery.

While Schwartz's story may sound futuristic, it's part of a larger trend. Robots and other modern marvels are becoming increasingly familiar sights in operating theaters. Last year, doctors in Miami used 3D printing technology from Israel to help save a little girl with a heart condition. More recently, conjoined twin babies who were separated in New York were also aided by 3D-printed anatomical models.

Established in 1934, Hadassah Hospital has long been a leading medical institution. From breakthrough treatments for multiple sclerosis to finding cures for rare blood diseases, the Jerusalem-based hospital has made a mark around the world. From the Grapevine readers will recall the Hadassah cancer patient and classical pianist who promised to give 100 concerts for charity and the Tchaikovsky flash mob that cheered up the patients and their families.

As for Aharon Schwartz, the man who was operated on by two robots, he is certainly thankful. "I am very grateful for the use of this advanced technology," Schwartz said after the procedure. "I don’t take it for granted.” The doctors predict that patient Schwartz will completely recover from the surgery and will be walking again very shortly.

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