Johns Hopkins surgeons used augmented reality to perform spinal surgery

July 9, 2020 / By Stephen Babcock / STAFF

When surgeons at the Johns Hopkins Hospital performed surgery to stabilize a patient’s spine last month, they did so wearing a headset that looked like a fighter pilot’s headgear, with a foot pedal they could turn on and off hands free. The headset overlaid 3D images directly into their view of the patient’s anatomy as they placed screws to stabilize the patient’s spine.

“This is like a GPS for the spine,” said Dr. Timothy Witham, director of the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery Spinal Fusion Laboratory, who was one of three surgeons performing the procedure.

The June 8 procedure marked the first use of an augmented reality system that is designed specifically to guide surgeons. Developed by Chicago-based Augmedics, the system, known as xvision Spine System, brings the technology that puts a computer-generated image into a person’s sight line into surgery.

For the procedure known as spinal decompression and fusion operation, surgeons placed screws and rods to stabilize the spine of a woman with low back and leg pain due to arthritis. It takes precision, as surgeons want to place the screws as firmly as possible, while also doing so in a way that will avoid any harm of the nearby spinal cord and nerves, or organs. Typically, this has been accomplished using surgeons’ own eyes and X-rays. It’s also an area where computer assistance or robotics has come into play.


Chris J. Stewart

Chris currently serves as President and CEO of Surgio Health. Chris has close to 20 years of healthcare management experience, with an infinity to improve healthcare delivery through the development and implementation of innovative solutions that result in improved efficiencies, reduction of unnecessary financial & clinical variation, and help achieve better patient outcomes. Previously, Chris was assistant vice president and business unit leader for HPG/HCA. He has presented at numerous healthcare forums on topics that include disruptive innovation, physician engagement, shifting reimbursement models, cost per clinical episode and the future of supply chain delivery.

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