2021/02/22 | Research | Biomechanics

SpineBot to measure spinal degeneration

The ARTORG Computational Bioengineering lab has developed a robotic device to measure the biomechanics of deformed and degenerated spinal segments during surgery. This project was conducted in collaboration with the Orthopedic Department of the Children’s Hospital, University of Basel. SpineBot was designed to quantify spinal stiffness of patients suffering from specific pathologies – such as scoliosis or low back pain, which are not accessible for ex-vivo measurements. This information is expected to provide a better biomechanical characterization of the human spine and can be used to improve patient’s treatment, for example by enabling the development of new surgical therapeutic approaches that do no longer need to fuse bones, thus preserving spinal mobility and function.

Philippe Büchler and his team from the Computational Bioengineering group have developed SpineBot. (Photo: Adrian Moser © University of Bern)

SpineBot is a parallel kinematic robot that can transmit loads to adjacent vertebrae in the natural physiological environment. A force/torque load cell mounted on the SpineBot measures the moment applied to the spinal segment and calculated segmental stiffnesses.

Ex-vivo validation showed that SpineBot’s accuracy is comparable to that of current reference systems. Yet it allows characterizing mechanical stiffness in-vivo. The robot can improve understanding of spinal biomechanics in patients with different pathologies, providing surgeons intraoperatively with information essential to developing new “non-fusion” therapeutic approaches that preserve patient mobility and spinal function.

On 20 January 2021, the project “SpineBot” with partners from Universitäts-Kinderspital beider Basel, ARTORG Center, University of Bern, and BIROMED-Lab, DBE University of Basel has been awarded the Christian Toggenburger Award worth CHF 100 000.