Mark MasonSurgeon Raphael Roybal and Mazor patient, Mark Mason.

    Mark Mason finds a certain irony in the Mazor robotic surgical device that played a role in his successful spinal surgery. 

    “I’m an automation and controls engineer, and when they dropped the whole robotics thing on me, I thought ‘Oh great, that’s an automated machine working on an automation guy. Well, I guess there’ll be a robot working on me for a change!’” said Mason.

    In February 2015, Raphael Roybal, M.D., orthopaedic surgeon, operated on the 46-year-old computer programmer using Memorial University Medical Center’s Mazor device. Memorial acquired the Mazor Robotics Renaissance Guidance System – the first in the southeast Georgia area -- a year ago as part of an ongoing campaign to invest in the best surgical techniques for patients.

    The Mazor device performs as an imaging/guidance system that enables a surgeon to use minimally invasive techniques while also improving accuracy. It melds a pre-operative CAT scan with fluoroscopic images to produce a precise rendering that can be used to plan and carry out complex spinal surgeries without requiring large open incisions. It also significantly reduces a patient’s radiation exposure, since fewer fluoroscopic images are required than with previous techniques.

    Without the Mazor technology, Roybal said, rebuilding the degenerating discs in Mason’s spine would have required a significantly longer surgery, would have involved the destruction of many back muscles, and would have led to a lengthy hospitalization instead of the two-day stay Mason experienced.

    “When I woke up from the surgery, I knew immediately it was successful. I could feel my legs were back,” Mason said. The deteriorating discs in his back had left him with numbness and loss of motor control in his legs, a problem that was gradually getting worse.

    Mason lives in Greenville, South Carolina, but chose to travel to Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, where he had previously been a patient of Roybal’s. “You guys did right by me before, and there’s no way I would take a chance on that,” Mason said. “Dr. Roybal is and always will be my surgeon.”

    And for his surgeon, Mason said, “I wanted somebody brave, somebody cutting edge, because I knew my back problems were severe.”