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Augmented Reality

Future of Spine Surgery

Augmented reality (AR) overlays computer generated images onto a user’s real-life visual field. Imagine, in the future, you have a pair of AR glasses and you wanted to fix a car. As you are under the hood of your car, your glasses are showing you the percentage of coolant in your radiator, where your engine belt is, and where to connect your jumper cables to your car’s battery.

This technology has made its way to medicine. A spine surgeon can get detailed images of a patient’s spinal anatomy prior to even starting the operation. That surgeon will wear a headset with glasses that has a small computer in it that can overlay the images of your bones onto their visual field. For instance, they see your skin but in the corner of their glasses, they can see the bones as if they are peering through your skin. Not only could these glasses show your bones but also could allow your surgeon to see your vital signs, your bone density, your blood work and lab results all while they are performing the surgery.

Benefits of Augmented Reality

  • Improving patient safety
  • Minimally invasive
  • Improve accuracy of surgery
  • Decrease patient complications
  • More efficient surgery
  • Less radiation exposure
  • Less blood loss
  • Shorter hospital stay

Augmented Reality FAQs

How Does Doing This Procedure With Augmented Reality Benefit the Patient and the Doctor?

These types of stereotactic guidance systems benefit the patient as they improve surgical accuracy and precision.With spine surgery, accuracy translates into patient safety. The benefit to the doctor will be that we are able to work more efficiently in the operating room. There are multiple benefits to using this advanced technology for the surgeon and surgical team. The surgical team will work more efficiently in the operating room and this will lead to safer, more ergonomic operations for the physicians.

How Is This Different From a Similar Procedure Without AR?

Think of driving a car and constantly having to look down at your navigation system to see what the next turn is.

New systems actually have the next turn displaced on the window so you can keep driving without constantly looking down and checking your navigation system. New systems, like AR, also allow the driver to see the speed the car is traveling, the road’s speed limit etc. These new technological advances allow us to keep our eyes focused on the goal and drive more safely with less distraction.

Are There Any Added Risks Using AR?

Augmented reality, like other emerging technologies still depend on the surgeon to be well trained in using the technology and to make appropriate decisions for the patient during the surgery. It still is and always will be up to the surgeon to make judgment calls and while these types of technologies can help to improve accuracy, they are not meant to replace a surgeon in the operating room.

What Kind Of Conditions Does This Treat?

We will be using AR to perform minimally invasive spine surgery including lumbar fusions. This technology will also be utilized in spinal deformity correction, like correction of scoliosis.

Who Is Eligible For This Kind Of Procedure?

Currently this will primarily be used to help patients who are undergoing thoracic and lumbar spinal surgeries which include instrumentation and fusion.

We recommend a thorough evaluation and obtaining a full medical history, physical exam and x-ray imaging prior to any surgical planning with AR assistance. Please contact us to learn more!

Is This An Indication Of What's To Come With Surgical Procedures In General? (Is This The Wave Of The Future?)

Yes, this is the wave of the future. This is starting in spine surgery but spine surgery but is anticipated to quickly evolve and be used anytime a surgeon needs to review a patient’s x-rays or scans during a surgical procedure, this technology gives the surgeon the ability to simultaneously see imaging and think about the patient. There is an almost limitless applications for many different types of information That surgeons may use to help patients during medical procedure. during medical procedure. Spine surgery is constantly advancing – the ability to have information easily available and customizable depending on what the patient and surgeon need is very exciting.

How has this system been vetted to be ready for medical use?

This technology has not been readily available as it was in development for many years. This requires many technical logical and software advancements, and also rigorous testing for medical safety. It is another great step in the evolution of technology and how it can help us to improve how we take care.

What is the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality?

It is important to understand the difference between virtual reality and augmented reality.

Virtual reality is a situation where someone wears glasses or a headset which completely prevent them from seeing the world around them. Everything they see is artificially made by the computer software and displayed on the glasses.

Augmented reality, allows for a person to be looking through the glasses and see the world around them with additional helpful information displayed on the glasses.

If you think of futuristic shows, where the hero is running around fighting the bad guys while simultaneously seeing information (facial scans, warning signals, maps, etc) that help them do a better job, that is augmented reality.

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