Revolutionary breakthrough in spinal surgery in Northern Virginia

A new medical breakthrough is taking place in Northern Virginia this week - a first-of-its-kind high-tech spinal fusion surgery.

Rachael Hoffman has suffered from scoliosis - a curvature of the spine - since she was a girl. But she's hoping that this procedure will change everything.

"My spine right now it's going this way. It's curving like that as opposed to going straight up and down," she said, gesturing at a skeleton.

An x-ray of her spine shows what's classified as a 60-degree curvature. She says her condition has worsened in recent years.

"So they'll be fusing all the way from T 3 to L 2 which is the mid-portion of my back," Hoffman said.

Hoffman is 23-years-old, and she's from Pittsburgh. She came to Virginia with her mom, Terri, in order to step into medical history books.

Dr. Chris Good is Hoffman's surgeon. He's the president of the Virginia Spine Institute based in Reston, where he's pioneering a new medical procedure.

The procedure was performed Thursday morning at Reston Hospital Center.

"So the spine will be straightened into its final location at the end of the surgical procedure," Good said.

What's new and unique about the procedure is the use of robotics technology - which has been around for years - combined with specialized navigation software.

Good noted that the system was recently cleared by the FDA.

"We're going to be doing the first surgery in world, and the big breakthrough was not the robotic arm, it was really the computer software. It's tremendously powerful software that takes patients' images - their CT scans and x-rays, and bring them all into one system and then be able to manipulate those, plan surgeries, decide what exactly the perfect location for a screw is, and then take all that information and then attach it to a surgical tool like a robot and that's taken a tremendous amount of work and intelligence and dedication from a lot of people to bring this all together," Good said.

Hoffman says she discovered Good's breakthrough work while searching for answers to her worsening condition online.

"I didn't really know I would be the first ever," she said.

Good says the world's leading spinal implant company - Dublin, Ireland based Medtronic - has brought the cutting edge technology together.

Hoffman's mother has been in contact with FOX 5 since the surgery, which she says went well.