Back to Pain-Free Living

Dorethea Parker Forrester had dealt with chronic back pain for years, after being hit from behind in a 2016 car accident. Basic tasks such as taking a shower or standing at the stove to cook a meal caused excruciating pain in the 57-year-old’s back and down her legs.

She had spondylolisthesis, commonly known as a slip, where one of the bones in the spine, slips forward or backward. After various treatment options, including a previous back surgery, she continued to battle pain. “Thinking I’d always be in this much pain was scary and depressing. I didn’t want to be on pain medication—I just wanted to be fixed,” she said.

Having been referred to Bayhealth Neurosurgeon James Mills, MD, she was determined to pursue another option. This coincided with the arrival of ExcelsiusGPS®, a new robotic spine surgery system, at Bayhealth Kent Campus. With navigation and robotics combined in one technology, ExcelsiusGPS is revolutionizing surgical treatment of back pain worldwide. It collects medical images which the surgeon uses, along with GPS-mapping similar to a car’s GPS navigation, to follow a precise pathway in implanting screws in the spine with a robotic arm. Bayhealth is the first facility in Delaware to offer this robotic approach to spine surgery.

“A spinal fusion procedure with the robot was an excellent option for Dorethea,” said Dr. Mills. “ExcelsiusGPS allows us to do a 3D reconstruction of the body and plan out exact pathways for the incision and screws, then place the hardware with near-perfect precision and avoid the tissue of previous surgery sites.”

Compared to traditional back surgeries, minimally invasive spine operations with ExcelsiusGPS are safer, with reduced risk for infection or complications. Surgeons separate the muscles surrounding the spine rather than cut through them, so additional benefits are smaller incisions, less tissue damage and scarring, and speedier recovery. This method is ideal for those who’ve had surgery before, or with degenerative conditions, deformities or trauma of the spine. Medical Director for Bayhealth Neurosurgery Dawn Tartaglione, DO, FACOS, and Neurosurgeon Amit Goyal, MD, also perform robotic surgery, and offer patient consultations at clinics in both Dover and Lewes.

Parker Forrester was only the second Bayhealth patient to undergo robotic spine surgery, but had complete trust in the team. “Dr. Mills took his time listening to me and explaining everything. He showed me all the things it means to be a wonderful doctor.” Bayhealth’s pre-operative spine class also helps patients prepare for surgery and recovery.

After a successful operation, she was able to go home the next day. Robotic spine surgery patients typically can resume normal activity in a matter of weeks, whereas open spine surgery can require longer hospitalization and recovery time, said Dr. Mills. Parker Forrester didn’t need any physical therapy afterwards and said she feels great, even after returning to her job as a production worker for a large local factory where she’s constantly on her feet and moving. “It’s such a big difference to not have chronic pain anymore. The surgery worked perfectly and everyone at Bayhealth took such good care of me – they’re the best,” she said.

Being able to do simple things independently again, like household chores, or enjoying family time pain-free is the biggest thrill for her. “Dr. Mills is a Godsent. He and his team gave me my life back and I’m so grateful.”

Visit to view a video about the procedure and the Bayhealth Neurosurgery team.