Health Watch: Augmented reality for spine surgery

Margot Kim Image
Friday, October 8, 2021
Health Watch: Augmented reality for spine surgery
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"X-ray vision" is no longer only for superheroes. Surgeons are using it in the operating room.

With every press, and pull, and kick, Helen Joline is one step closer to getting resuming her normal life. Even driving is a victory for her.

A few months ago, Helen couldn't even do this. Diagnosed with osteoarthritis, her back pain was becoming unbearable.

"The joints just wear out and then bone spurs occur in those joints causing further problems, cartilage disappears," she said.

Helen underwent a spinal fusion with augmented reality technology.

"This is a three-dimensional augmented reality headset," says Dr. Todd Allen.

Allen is one of the first to use this on spines. This is what the surgeon sees, a view from the top and side. The patient's CT scan is superimposed.

Without augmented reality, surgeons rely on x-rays and CT images. They are looking at screens, not the patients.

The difference: smaller incisions, less blood loss, less tissue dissection, lower risks from complications, and the potential for a faster recovery.

"I didn't realize how bad I was feeling until I felt great," Helen said.

Just a few months after surgery and Helen is ready to go!

"I'm feeling very strong now," she said. "My core and my back is feeling strong."