Mohit Sinha, Preeti Suryavanshi and Heema Kirit Shah had consulted orthopaedic surgeons in several hospitals in the cities they lived in, but without hope of ever being rid of their spinal deformities.

To them, walking tall and straight was only a dream. Until Sajan K. Hegde, Apollo Hospital’s spine surgeon offered them treatment using a robot. Today, all three of them are walking with a straight back minus the hump they were born with.

Mohit, 30, suffered from ankylosing spondylitis, which resulted in the spinal bones fusing together. “I was bent forward 85 degrees and could not look up,” he said. The doctors he consulted offered physiotherapy, all without much result.

Then, last year, he was referred to Dr. Hegde, who used a Renaissance robot to place implants in his spinal cord. This is a robotic technology that offers accuracy and precision for complicated procedures. “We broke his spine under controlled conditions,” Dr. Hegde explained to reporters on Friday. We then placed implants to help straighten the spine, he added.

Mohit is from Bokharo, while Preeti, 14, is from Ulhasnagar near Mumbai. Preeti recalled that she was in pain every time she bent her back. “I had a problem from birth,” she said. Ten-year-old Heema Kirit, from Upleta, Rajkot will have to stay away from the garba dance this Navratri. “The doctor has told her that for one year she has to forgo garba,” her father Kirit Shah. “We noticed a bulge in her spine four years ago. She had a surgery in Mumbai but it did not help.” At Apollo, Dr. Hegde used the robot to correct her deformity.

The Renaissance robot, called the ‘da Vinci system’ has been in use for sometime now in the US and Europe. However, it is just making inroads in India. When performing such procedures conventionally, without robotic technology, the surgeon has to rely on multiple x-rays, CT scans and MRIs to locate and place the implant. The robot allows the surgeon to accurately place the implant and only a small incision is made, allowing for faster recuperation.

Apollo Hospital chairman Pratap C. Reddy said more of the equipment would be procured for other centres.

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