Augmented Reality-Assisted Spine Surgery: An Early Experience Demonstrating Safety and Accuracy with 218 Screws

Global Spine J. 2023 Sep;13(7):2047-2052. doi: 10.1177/21925682211069321. Epub 2022 Jan 10.


Study design: Prospective cohort study.

Objectives: In spine surgery, accurate screw guidance is critical to achieving satisfactory fixation. Augmented reality (AR) is a novel technology to assist in screw placement and has shown promising results in early studies. This study aims to provide our early experience evaluating safety and efficacy with an Food and Drug Administration-approved head-mounted (head-mounted device augmented reality (HMD-AR)) device.

Methods: Consecutive adult patients undergoing AR-assisted thoracolumbar fusion between October 2020 and August 2021 with 2 -week follow-up were included. Preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative data were collected to include demographics, complications, revision surgeries, and AR performance. Intraoperative 3D imaging was used to assess screw accuracy using the Gertzbein-Robbins (G-R) grading scale.

Results: Thirty-two patients (40.6% male) were included with a total of 222 screws executed using HMD-AR. Intraoperatively, 4 (1.8%) were deemed misplaced and revised using AR or freehand. The remaining 218 (98.2%) screws were placed accurately. There were no intraoperative adverse events or complications, and AR was not abandoned in any case. Of the 208 AR-placed screws with 3D imaging confirmation, 97.1% were considered clinically accurate (91.8% Grade A, 5.3% Grade B). There were no early postoperative surgical complications or revision surgeries during the 2 -week follow-up.

Conclusions: This early experience study reports an overall G-R accuracy of 97.1% across 218 AR-guided screws with no intra or early postoperative complications. This shows that HMD-AR-assisted spine surgery is a safe and accurate tool for pedicle, cortical, and pelvic fixation. Larger studies are needed to continue to support this compelling evolution in spine surgery.

Keywords: augmented reality; complications; cortical screw; fixation; pedicle screw; revisions; thoracolumbar fusion.