Arrowhead Campus surgeons perform first spine surgery in Arizona using new robotic system

Aug 12, 2017
New era for spine surgery

GLENDALE (Aug. 12, 2015) – An avid hiker and world traveler, Ann Brandt-Williams worried that severe back pain from degenerative disc disease meant she had to give up her favorite activities.

While she had successful back surgeries previously, the retired Glendale Community College professor and former nurse was concerned about how a new surgery would impact her life.

Her anxiety turned into excitement when she learned that she could be one of the first Arizona patients to use a new spine robot for back surgery at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus. It is the first and only Arizona hospital that uses the Mazor Robotics Renaissance Guidance System.

About six weeks after her surgery, Brandt-Williams says she is feeling great. She and another Mazor patient, Freddy Ramos, returned to Arrowhead on Friday (Aug. 7) to share their stories about how this new robot helped them. Brandt-Williams’ surgeon, Edward Dohring; and Ramos’ surgeon, Issada Thongtrangan, presented demonstrations of the spine robot, which is about the size of a smartphone.  

Before entering the operating room, surgeons use the Renaissance robot to pre-plan the optimal surgery in a CT-based 3D simulation of the patient’s spine. The robot acts like a GPS to guide the surgeon’s hand and tools to the precise pre-planned location to place screws during the surgery.

Brandt-Williams, a 68-year-old Glendale resident, she says she is happy that she decided to try the new technique. She said her June 23 surgery resulted in a shorter hospital stay, fewer complications and a quicker recovery than her previous back surgeries.

“My previous surgeries each took two days and this surgery was only one day. I needed blood after my previous surgeries and I didn’t need any this time. I also was only in the hospital about 2 ½ days this time instead of five days during my previous surgeries,’’ she said.

Brandt-Williams praised the care she received at Abrazo Arrowhead campus.

“The hospital nurses were very responsive. I had excellent care,’’ she said.

Ramos, a 61-year-old Avondale resident, says he is pleased with his recovery from his June 16 surgery at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus. He is looking forward to resuming activities that he loves like taking his son to soccer practice, gardening and holding his grandkids.

This Renaissance robot technology may be used to help patients who have debilitating spinal conditions such as scoliosis, degenerative disc disease, herniated disc, kyphosis or spondylolisthesis.                                                          

“Renaissance guides the surgeon’s tools and implants during both open and minimally invasive surgery which may provide greater accuracy when compared to freehand conventional spine surgery. This may result in patients having less radiation, fewer complications, less postoperative pain and a faster recovery,’’ said Patrick Smith, Chief Medical Officer at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus.                             

Arrowhead’s new robot is part of Abrazo Community Health Network’s stepped-up investment in healthcare in the Valley.

 “The purchase of this new technology underscores Abrazo Arrowhead Campus’ commitment to providing the latest technological advances in patient care,’’ said Frank Molinaro, Abrazo Arrowhead Campus Chief Executive Officer.

“We see Mazor Robotics technology as ushering in a new era in spine surgery, the same way laparoscopies transformed general surgery in the ‘90s” Molinaro said. 

Besides Dohring and Thongtrangan, Mark Wang also is trained to use the Mazor equipment. All three are independent surgeons on staff at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus. More Mazor surgeons are planned to be added to the Arrowhead team.

Mazor is the latest addition to orthopedic care at Abrazo Arrowhead Campus. It is the first hospital in Arizona to use the MAKOplasty robotic surgical system for total hip replacement and the first in the West Valley to offer partial knee replacement robotic surgery. In addition, Arrowhead surgeons use the da Vinci surgical robotic system for a range of surgeries.

Arrowhead is a 217-bed nationally recognized acute care hospital that has been serving the healthcare needs of the residents in and around Glendale, Arizona since 1988. 

“Since we opened our doors, Arrowhead has grown right along with our community. We proudly combine state-of-the-art medical equipment and technology with experienced, dedicated staff to ensure the highest quality and safest patient care. We continue establishing new and much-needed service lines, such as our award-winning diagnostic and interventional cardiovascular program including open-heart surgery; comprehensive orthopedic services; 24-hour emergency care; obstetrics; inpatient and outpatient surgery; women’s health care; and wound care center,’’ Molinaro said.

For more information, go to or call 1-888-3ABRAZO (1-888-322-7296).

Find a Doctor

Need a doctor for your care?

Sign Up for Health Tips

Get our advice and upcoming events about weight, pain, heart and more.