COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH)–The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center is one of a handful of hospitals in the country using augmented reality (AR) for surgery. Doctors and patients have said they are already seeing the benefit.
Typically, when surgeons are operating, they constantly have to look to the side at their x-rays or scans to make sure they’re operating in the right area. With augmented reality, those images come to life.
“This is a dramatic change in the way we do surgery and I’m excited,” said orthopedic spine surgeon Dr. Safdar Khan.
The doctors here began using the new technique in September.
“Wearing a specialized headset, even before making an incision, I can visually see the patient’s spine,” said Dr. Khan. “We can now plan our surgical strategies with an element of accuracy that we never had before.”
Khan has performed more than a dozen augmented spinal surgeries in the last month. He explained that accuracy allows for fewer, smaller incisions, and that translates into a quicker operating time.
“With limited confidence in the accuracy given the older techniques that we had, probably take us three to four hours. I will tell you that now we’re putting in the same amount of hardware in less than an hour with absolute confidence and complete accuracy.”
Jennifer Minnear was one of the first patients to have an AR spine surgery.
“From the moment I woke up, I didn’t have any back pain at all,” said Minnear. “If every surgery could be as minimal pain as this surgery has been, I would never be afraid of another surgery.”
That was her fifth surgery on her spinal injury and said it was by far the best.
There are some downsides to the technique. Even though the headsets are custom made for surgeons, they are big, heavy. Kahn hopes that they can become lighter and maybe even cheaper so more people can benefit from AR.