Mayo Clinic Minute: What is augmented reality spine surgery?

For millions of people, back pain is a literal pain in the back. Thankfully, most back problems can be treated conservatively. But for people with severe low back pain caused from arthritis, cancer or degeneration, spine surgery can make a huge difference in their quality of life.

Watch: The Mayo Clinic Minute

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video pkg (1:05) is in the downloads at the end of the post. Please courtesy: “Mayo Clinic News Network.” Read the script.

Spine surgery is a big deal and not without its risks. But technology is making a difference. Innovations, like augmented reality, allow surgeons to see critical structures without creating larger incisions. Mayo Clinic resident Dr. Miles Hudson, who works with neurosurgeon Dr. Maziyar Kalani, says, “There’s a lot of very vital structures that we have to move out of the way and/or avoid to get these surgeries done safely. Augmented reality lets us enhance our visual senses.”

By combining patient scans and MRIs, the technology allows the surgeon to see more without creating larger incisions. “Using those scans, our technologists can make the 3D models of the scan, and then we can use the 3D models and pair that to our neuro navigation software. And then by fusing those two together, you get a navigated 3D model that we can overlay through different visual devices, such as a headset or the surgical microscope itself,” says Dr. Hudson.

He says this technology of Augment Reality Spine Surgery will help achieve less pain, with fewer complications for patients. “It just helps elevate that safety to the next level by knowing where all the critical structures are and being able to actually see them through all the bone and soft tissue.”

  • Mayo Clinic remembers Sister Lauren Weinandt
    Mayo Clinic Q and A: Tips for cancer patients to stay safe in the summer