What's next for augmented reality in spine surgery?

Carly Behm -  

Augmented reality in spine surgery is taking off, and its growth could be exponential in the near future. With more and more places adopting the technology, many surgeons have a positive outlook for the technology.

Seven details about AR in spine surgery and what lies ahead:

1. Surgalign's Holo Portal augmented reality system received FDA 510(k) clearance for lumbar spine surgeries in January. It's the first AR system driven by artificial intelligence, using machine-learning-based guidance and automated surgical planning. 

2. Devicemakers are looking to expand AR spine systems globally. In December, Royal Philips expanded its ClarifyEye AR spine system in Spain and Oman.

3. Swiss devicemaker Neo Medical is also working on an AR spine system. In February, Neo Medical raised $20.6 million in funding, which will support the product's U.S. launch.

4. In the U.S., multiple hospitals and health systems have added AR spine technology, including the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center in Columbus, Stamford (Conn.) Health's Bennett Medical Center and Sky Ridge Medical Center in Lone Tree, Colo

5. Augmented reality has its advantages, John Shin, MD, said during a Becker's webinar. Dr. Shin, of Boston-based Massachusetts General Hospital, talked about implementing AR technology and its versatility compared to traditional robotic systems.

"You can use this augmented reality system with essentially any instrumentation system that you use, either as a surgeon or if your hospital or hospital system has specific contracts with preferred vendors," Dr. Shin said. "From a work standpoint, the footprint of the technology in terms of the storage space of the technology and the hardware involved, it really does not take up much space. I think from a number of levels, it's been advantageous for us."

6. The first spine case combining augmented reality and a surgical robot was completed by Kornelis Poelstra, MD, PhD, director of the Robotic Spine Institute of Silicon Valley in Los Gatos, Calif., in May. The posterior lumbar fusion was performed using Medtronic's Mazor X robot and Augmedics' Xvision augmented reality system.

7. Vik Mehta, MD, a neurosurgeon at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach, Calif., said he was optimistic about the future of AR in spine surgery.

"I believe 2022 is the year augmented reality comes into its own for spinal surgery," he said. "At Hoag, for example, my colleagues recently published a peer-reviewed study in Neurosurgical Focus, assessing the accuracy of screw placement using SpineAR, a navigation-guided spine surgery platform that incorporates real-time navigation images from intraoperative imaging with a 3D-reconstructed model in the surgeon's field of view. The results were excitingly positive, and I believe as more data comes in about the improved safety and efficacy, we will truly be at the dawn of the AR era in spine surgery."

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