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Rebecca Hutchinson Coordinator, Marketing & Communications Frye Regional Medical Center

Frye Regional Medical Center Introduces Minimally Invasive Robotic-Assisted Spine Surgery

On Monday, January 29, Frye Regional Medical Center, a Duke LifePoint hospital, announced the successful completion of their first minimally invasive, robotic-assisted, spine surgery. The robot, located table side in the operating room, allows a surgeon’s hand movements to be scaled, filtered and translated into precise movements of micro-instruments at the surgical site.

Neurosurgeon Mark Ishak, DO, successfully performed Hickory’s first minimally invasive, robotic, spine surgery at Frye Regional on January 24, 2024.

“It’s a momentous day for Frye Regional as our neuro-spine surgery team performs the area’s first robotic-assisted, spine surgery with this next-generation, spine robot,” Dr. Ishak said. “We are proud to offer this new surgical option for the treatment of cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine disorders to relieve pain and other symptoms with improved safety and accuracy.”

The magnified, high-resolution, three-dimensional view the surgeon experiences enables him/her to perform precise and complex surgery through very small surgical incisions, while having total control of the robotic system. The new spine robot is particularly beneficial for patients with a range of conditions or injuries affecting the column of bones, known as vertebrae, that extend from the neck down to the lower back, offering benefits such as reduced postoperative pain, shorter hospital stays and a quicker recovery.

“Robotic guidance and navigation open up new possibilities for us, allowing us to approach spine surgery with greater precision,” said Barry Kaplan, MD, a neurosurgeon also specially trained in the robotic guidance and navigation system. “With our new spine robot, we can offer our patients a minimally invasive approach that not only reduces pain and scarring, but also promotes faster recovery. This technology exemplifies our commitment to advancing patient care and improving quality of life.”

Throughout the procedure, the surgical instruments and any metal implants are continuously displayed on the screen for the surgical team to view in real-time. This improved visualization of the patient’s anatomy allows the surgeon to individualize the surgery to the patient, confirm final implant positioning and ultimately help the patient return to their daily activities as soon as possible.

In addition to Drs. Ishak and Kaplan, Joseph Popper, MD, an orthopedic spine specialist, will also perform robotic-assisted, spine surgery exclusively at Frye Regional Medical Center. The surgical team also includes a dedicated neuro/spine nurse and surgical technicians.

“At Frye Regional, we are committed to providing the highest standard of care for our patients and look forward to the exciting opportunities and outstanding impact our newest robot – in the hands of experienced surgeons – will bring to the field of spine surgery” said Philip Greene, MD, chief executive officer of Frye Regional Medical Center. “We are proud to be at the forefront of medical innovations and will continue to invest in technologies that enhance patient outcomes and experiences.”

To learn more or take a free spine health assessment, visit