Sanford Makes History with First Robotic-Assisted Spinal Surgery in North Dakota

The new technology is much less invasive

FARGO, N.D. — Nine years ago, Darrel Raftevold got a spinal fusion surgery.

The operation was successful, “But the only problem was they had to cut into the muscles. And I had a hard time, well, there was pain, let’s put it that way,” said Raftevold.

Fast forward a few years, and Darrel’s back pain persisted.

He could hardly sit, stand or walk.

But a second surgery, this time using a robotic assistant, changed his life.

“Dr. Baker mentioned they have a new advanced surgical technique called robotics–something, you know, and I said yeah, okay that’s fine.”

“The surgery is a robot–assisted surgery. It’s not a surgery that the robot does. The primary surgeon is beside the patient throughout this entire case,” said Dr. Abdul Baker.

Darrel’s is the first robotic–assisted spinal surgery in North Dakota.

“You know, I watch a lot of news and information channels, and I’ve watched a robotics surgery on something once, so it wasn’t a surprise, but I thought ‘Oh my goodness, that’s going to be me.'”

Although not every surgery can benefit from this technology, the advantages of adopting it when needed are many.

“More accurate screw placement, less blood loss, less muscle dissection, less pain post–operatively, quicker recovery,” said Dr. Baker.

And Darrel can back that up.

“When I came out of surgery and I felt so good. I mean I haven’t had any pain since. I haven’t had to take pain pills at all.”

As healthcare evolves, robotic–assisted surgery will, too.

But some believe there will always be the need for a human touch.

“Because there’s always people behind the scene who know what they’re doing, and that’s the doctor. That’s what doctors are for and that’s what they do,” said Darrel.

Sanford Health also performed North Dakota’s first robotic–assisted knee surgery back in May.

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