Perspective review on applications of optics in spinal surgery

J Biomed Opt. 2018 Jun;23(6):1-8. doi: 10.1117/1.JBO.23.6.060601.


Optical technologies may be applied to multiple facets of spinal surgery from diagnostics to intraoperative image guidance to therapeutics. In diagnostics, the current standard remains cross-sectional static imaging. Optical surface scanning tools may have an important role; however, significant work is required to clearly correlate surface metrics to radiographic and clinically relevant spinal anatomy and alignment. In the realm of intraoperative image guidance, optical tracking is widely developed as the current standard of instrument tracking, however remains compromised by line-of-sight issues and more globally cumbersome registration workflows. Surface scanning registration tools are being refined to address concerns over workflow and learning curves, and allow real-time update of tissue deformation; however, the line-of-sight issues plaguing instrument tracking remain to be addressed. In therapeutics, optical applications exist in both visualization, in the form of endoscopes, and ablation, in the form of lasers. Further work is required to extend the feasibility of laser ablation to multiple tissues, including disc, bone, and tumor, in a safe and time-efficient manner. Finally, we postulate some of the short- and long-term opportunities for future growth of optical techniques in the context of spinal surgery. Particular emphasis is placed on intraoperative image guidance, the area of the authors' primary expertise.

Keywords: image guidance; laser; optics; photonics; spine surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Spinal Diseases / diagnosis
  • Spinal Diseases / surgery*
  • Surgery, Computer-Assisted*