With a recent acquisition from France, Medtronic is aiming to leverage AI in the world of spine surgery and integrate the system with its robot.
Medtronic’s general surgery robot — Hugo — will have some major catching up to do given that the top dog in the robotics world — Intuitive Surgical’s Da Vinci robot — has solidified its lead over the years despite many competitors. But when it comes to Medtronic’s spine division, the Irish medtech giant is in much better shape.
Since acquiring Mazor Robotics in 2018, the company has obtained a strong foothold in the robot-assisted spinal surgery market. However, despite its lead, Medtronic will have to contend with competitors like Globus Medical’s Excelsius robot that is expected to gain share as overall adoption of robots in spine surgery increases according to analysts from SVB Leerink. Still, if a senior Medtronic executive is to be believed, Medtronic is creating a compelling case for robot-assisted complex spine surgery, now augmented by artificial intelligence. In a recent interview, Jacob Paul, senior vice president of cranial and spinal technologies, said that the company’s European AI acquisition will leave its competitors biting the dust as with it, Medtronic has all the pieces to provide a comprehensive spinal surgery system to its surgeon customers.
The acquisition that Paul is referring to is that of Lyon, France-based Medicrea, which became part of Medtronic in mid November at a cost of 200 million euros (roughly $243 million). The French startup provides AI-driven surgical planning and predictive modeling tools that helps to create personalized implants that in turn provides a better surgeon experience and more importantly, improved surgical outcomes for patients. Aside from the AI, the company has a portfolio of FDA-cleared spinal technologies including the ability to make 3-D printed customized rods.
Medtronic’s goal is to create the “augmented surgeon” with the help of surgical navigation, robotics and artificial intelligence.
“So navigation is the eyes, robotics is the hand that automates the surgery and now with AI we have the brain,” Paul explained.
Image Credit: Medicrea