Augmented reality aids in spinal surgery

Spinal surgery is a last resort when medications and non-surgical treatments are not working. The surgery itself must be precise to get the best outcomes. Now there’s a new FDA-approved augmented reality device that’s helping surgeons have a more accurate and faster surgery—translating to a better recovery for patients.

Being able to do this is a big triumph for Paul Zakula. Fourteen years ago, back pain slowed him down. He had a fusion, but the pain came back years later.

“When it got bad, it got bad. It got to the point, really, where I could not even walk ten steps anymore,” shared Zakula.

Paul went to his doctor and got an MRI.

“Sat down and he stuck it in the computer, and he was just staring at it, not saying a word, which I knew that couldn’t be good,” recalled Zakula.

He was going to need spine surgery again. But this time, his surgeon had a new tool for a better surgery. This headset called x-vision is a surgical guidance system that allows the surgeon to see through Paul’s skin as if he had x-ray vision.

“What it enables us to do is place screws through tiny poke incisions with 3D visualization of the spine,” explained Frank Phillips, MD, a professor of orthopedics at Midwest Orthopedics at Rush.

CT scans are displayed right in front of the surgeon’s eyes in real time, keeping the surgeon’s focus on the patient instead of looking away to see scans on a separate monitor. The device allows the surgery to be more accurate and efficient.

“Place screws in five vertebrae in under half an hour using pre-augmented reality techniques that would often take double that amount of time,” illustrated Dr. Phillips.

Quicker and safer surgery means faster recovery. For Paul, six weeks after his surgery …

“I’m able to get up every morning and walk for an hour,” expressed Zakula.

Leaving his back pain behind him.

Right now, the device is approved to only be used in spinal surgery, but Augmedics, the company that designed the headset, has future plans to use this for other surgeries.

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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