Thrive by IU Health

March 22, 2024

Neurosurgeons gear up with augmented reality

IU Health Bloomington Hospital

Neurosurgeons gear up with augmented reality

Having the right tools is essential for making any project better from start to finish.

That’s why IU Health neurosurgeons Jason Voorhies, MD (below, left), and Bryan Wohlfeld, MD (below, right), added augmented reality to their toolkit.

Check out the Q&A below from Voorhies and Wohlfeld to learn more about this revolutionary technology that looks at spine surgery from another angle.

What is augmented reality (AR)?

AR combines real-world and computer-generated information to create an enhanced, interactive experience for the user.

How is AR used for spine surgeries?

A CT-like image is taken in the operating room and formed into a virtual 3D model of the patient’s anatomy. A special headset then projects the model for the surgeons to guide them during the surgical placement of screws that need to be incredibly precise.

Benefits to the patient? Surgeon?

AR can allow for extremely precise, minimally invasive spine surgery, which typically leads to faster patient recovery times. And having this service in Bloomington means individuals can have the procedure close to home rather than having to drive to Indianapolis.

This tool allows surgeons to streamline their surgery and increases their visibility of the patient’s anatomy. Compared to driving with GPS, AR allows surgeons to have GPS in front of them, where they can precisely line it up with the anatomy.

What type of surgeries do you perform this with?

Typically, the Bloomington team uses AR for surgeries focused on back and nerve pain relief.

Primarily, they’ve used it for spinal fusions in the neck and lower back, but this technology can be utilized for the entire length of the spine.

Where are these surgeries performed?

IU Health Bloomington is the only facility in the region that offers AR-guided spine surgeries.

How does AR impact the future of spinal surgeries?

Robotic assistance continues to grow more common for spinal surgeries. In part, that’s due to developments in augmented reality, which increase precision and surgical efficiency while improving patient recovery.

Voorhies and Wohlfeld look forward to seeing even more advancements in the near future that will further enhance spine surgeries at IU Health Bloomington.

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