Philips developing augmented-reality navigation for minimally invasive surgeries

Philips revealed Thursday that it is developing a new surgical system that uses augmented reality to guide surgeons performing open and minimally invasive spinal surgery. The system combines external and internal images of the patient in real time to guide these procedures.

Open spinal surgery requires large incisions that allow surgeons to see and touch the patient’s spine. But minimally invasive procedures, performed through small incisions in the skin, have been on the rise as they reduce blood loss and soft tissue damage, thereby lessening postoperative pain. But the nature of these procedures limits visibility, so surgeons need real-time imaging and navigation to guide them.

Philips’ platform combines external views of the patient, captured by cameras and internal imaging, acquired by low-dose X-ray, in a three-dimensional view of the patient’s anatomy, according to a statement. This provides surgeons conducting minimally invasive procedures with a real-time view of the patient’s spine relative to incision sites. The system can also be used for minimally invasive cranial and trauma surgery.

"This new technology allows us to intraoperatively make a high-resolution 3D image of the patient's spine, plan the optimal device path, and subsequently place pedicle screws using the system's fully-automatic augmented-reality navigation," said Dr. Skúlason of the Landspitali University Hospital in Reykjavik, in the statement. "We can also check the overall result in 3D in the OR without the need to move the patient to a CT scanner. And all this can be done without any radiation exposure to the surgeon and with minimal dose to the patient."

A preclinical study of the platform was published in Spine in November. Surgeons placed 94 pedicle screws in the spines of four cadavers, using augmented reality surgical navigation to place 47 screws on one side of the spine, while placing the other screws freehand on the opposite side of the spine. The study found that the overall accuracy of screw placement was higher (85%) with Philips’ tech than without (64%).

Under a joint clinical research program, the augmented reality platform will be installed in the Philips hybrid operating rooms of 10 clinical partners, the company said.