First in-human report of the clinical accuracy of thoracolumbar percutaneous pedicle screw placement using augmented reality guidance

Neurosurg Focus. 2021 Aug;51(2):E10. doi: 10.3171/2021.5.FOCUS21217.


Objective: Augmented reality (AR) is an emerging technology that has great potential for guiding the safe and accurate placement of spinal hardware, including percutaneous pedicle screws. The goal of this study was to assess the accuracy of 63 percutaneous pedicle screws placed at a single institution using an AR head-mounted display (ARHMD) system.

Methods: Retrospective analyses were performed for 9 patients who underwent thoracic and/or lumbar percutaneous pedicle screw placement guided by ARHMD technology. Clinical accuracy was assessed via the Gertzbein-Robbins scale by the authors and by an independent musculoskeletal radiologist. Thoracic pedicle subanalysis was also performed to assess screw accuracy based on pedicle morphology.

Results: Nine patients received thoracic or lumbar AR-guided percutaneous pedicle screws. The mean age at the time of surgery was 71.9 ± 11.5 years and the mean number of screws per patient was 7. Indications for surgery were spinal tumors (n = 4, 44.4%), degenerative disease (n = 3, 33.3%), spinal deformity (n = 1, 11.1%), and a combination of deformity and infection (n = 1, 11.1%). Presenting symptoms were most commonly low-back pain (n = 7, 77.8%) and lower-extremity weakness (n = 5, 55.6%), followed by radicular lower-extremity pain, loss of lower-extremity sensation, or incontinence/urinary retention (n = 3 each, 33.3%). In all, 63 screws were placed (32 thoracic, 31 lumbar). The accuracy for these screws was 100% overall; all screws were Gertzbein-Robbins grade A or B (96.8% grade A, 3.2% grade B). This accuracy was achieved in the thoracic spine regardless of pedicle cancellous bone morphology.

Conclusions: AR-guided surgery demonstrated a 100% accuracy rate for the insertion of 63 percutaneous pedicle screws in 9 patients (100% rate of Gertzbein-Robbins grade A or B screw placement). Using an ARHMS system for the placement of percutaneous pedicle screws showed promise, but further validation using a larger cohort of patients across multiple surgeons and institutions will help to determine the true accuracy enabled by this technology.

Keywords: augmented reality; computer-assisted spine surgery; mixed reality; percutaneous pedicle screw; spine navigation.

MeSH terms

  • Augmented Reality*
  • Humans
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / surgery
  • Pedicle Screws*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Spinal Fusion*
  • Surgery, Computer-Assisted*