Your Health: Making spine surgery safer

Now new technology similar to the navigation system for self-driving cars is improving accuracy and patient safety in the operating room.
Published: Jan. 22, 2023 at 8:42 PM EST
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - Back pain is the leading cause of disability for American adults under the age of 65.

Now new technology similar to the navigation system for self-driving cars is improving accuracy and patient safety in the operating room.

For 66-year-old Sam DeMaria, this is a victory.

DeMaria has been living with chronic back pain for 15 years. He would get temporary relief, but then he’d be laid up again.

“The only comfort I had was in my bed, on my back, with pillows under my leg. That was it. If I came downstairs, I lasted five minutes, and went right back upstairs,” DeMaria said.

“He had scoliosis and multi-level, basically, numerous nerves that were getting compressed in numerous places,” said Dr. Jeremy Steinberger, a neurosurgeon at Mount Sinai Hospital.

Dr. Steinberger and his team performed DeMaria’s sixth surgery, but this time, they had a new navigation system using machine vision technology.

“You can basically touch a probe to the patient and you see where you are on the patient’s spine,” Dr. Steinberger said.

Machine vision technology is similar to the technology and sophisticated software used in self-driving cars. In a surgical suite, special cameras analyze the anatomy and create a 3D image. A light overhead takes a “flash” image. In four seconds, it gives surgeons thousands of fiducial points to register a patient’s CT scans.

“That’s what links the patient to the technology and that’s when you can check to confirm that you’re accurate,” said Dr. Steinberger.

“I was pain free after the surgery,” DeMaria said. “I’m standing up straight and that’s what I wanted to accomplish.”

Now Sam DeMaria is moving better than he has in years.

One added benefit to the technology: the new navigation system does not require a patient to have medical imaging that requires a continuous x-ray image on a monitor. This helps to reduce radiation.

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