Alexander Satin, a spine surgeon at the Texas Back Institute (Frisco, USA), talks to Spinal News International about why he chooses to use Augmented Reality (AR) within his clinic. He discusses some of the major advantages and negatives of technology. He discusses the next phase of spinal surgery could be like if there were a wider adoption of AR.

Do you use AR for your practice?

I am not currently using AR within the operating area (OR). However, I’ve recently started employing AR in my office to provide education to patients before surgery. With the AR headset, I can present a full visual depiction of the patient’s disease and show them a step-by-step demonstration of their surgical procedure. I believe this is far superior to the information we provide patients using the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reviews and surgery models. It is important to research how this affects the patient’s satisfaction and understanding when relative to the traditional preoperative educational methods.

Why did you decide to integrate AR technology?

I decided to use AR technology due to a variety of reasons. The first and most important reason is for my patients; I believe it improves their understanding of their spine’s pathology and helps them plan their surgical procedure. In addition, I think it will soon become common in spine surgery.

What are the primary advantages associated with AR, and how does it aid in improving outcomes?

AR-based platforms can help reduce OR obstructions and issues with line-of-sight when compared with robots and navigation systems. The surgeon can depend on their headset instead of a screen that permits direct viewing and a more comfortable position. The integration of MRI images will significantly increase our understanding of the soft tissue structure and reduce the morbidity of the surgery.

Spinal News International recently ran an online survey asking doctors whether or not they are using AR or would be willing to use AR for their work. The results were as follows:

What are the major obstacles to the adoption of this new technology?

Although current AR platforms are more affordable than other navigation and robotics systems but the initial capital expenses are still very high. Costs for disposal for every instance make it less attractive to the ambulatory surgery center or a surgeon-owned facility. The current platforms need an intraoperative digital (CT) scan (as opposed to the before-operative CT scan). This can significantly increase the cost of capital when you don’t possess access to an Intraoperative CT scanning technology. Neck pain and eye fatigue are two issues that must be addressed in this technology’s next iterations.

What do the prospects for spine surgery look like for you?

The future looks promising with AR technology. I am convinced that we will soon experience the merging of AR and robotics, navigation, and endoscopy. These platforms will give surgeons unrivaled visualization while improving surgical safety and reducing morbidity.

Alexander Satin is a spine surgeon at the Texas Back Institute (Frisco, USA). He received an honors degree in the class of Johns Hopkins University after earning an education in Biophysics. He earned his medical doctorate through the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. The doctor completed the orthopedic surgical residency at Hofstra University-Northwell Health System located in New York. After this residency, Satin did a back surgery training program in The Texas Back Institute.

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