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Hospital for Special Surgery and Stamford Health Unveil Breakthrough Augmented Reality Technology for Spine Surgery

The System, Now Available at Stamford Health, is the First in the Region

HSS Orthopedics at Stamford Health is the first healthcare provider in the region to introduce the most advanced computerized augmented-reality navigation technology for spine surgery. Spine surgeons equipped with “x-ray vision” have the capability to see through tissue surrounding a patient’s spine to provide more precise and faster surgeries. The system is now available at Stamford Health’s Bennett Medical Center campus and Harvinder Sandhu, MD, MBA, co-chief of HSS Spine, will lead orthopedic surgeons using the new system. On January 28th, Dr. Sandhu performed the first surgery using this technology at HSS Stamford Health.

Augmented reality (AR) refers to digital information that is superimposed on a user’s view of the physical environment comparable to a car manufacturer that offers an AR app utilizing 3D imagery to help potential buyers learn more about a car’s design, features, energy use and other details.

The AR technology allows HSS-Stamford Health collaborative surgeons to visualize the anatomy of a patient’s spine in 3D during surgery and track progress in real time via a transparent display headset fitted with AR eyeglasses. The headset enables surgeons to determine the position of surgical tools in real time by superimposing the patient’s CT scan or x-ray images over the surgical site to guide the surgeon during the procedure. The headset projects 3D navigation data onto the surgeon’s retina, allowing them to look at the patient and review the data simultaneously without having to shift their focus back and forth to a remote screen.

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“The spine system’s augmented reality platform enables ultraprecise alignment and positioning of spinal implants through enhanced visualization capabilities,” explains Dr. Sandhu. “The spinal implants can be placed with much less invasive surgery, as we don’t have to retract or move muscles and tissue to see a patient’s full spine.”

Dr. Sandhu notes that smaller incisions mean faster recovery times and improved outcomes for patients. He also says the system gives surgeons the ability to course correct or alter their approach if needed during procedures.

Patient Experiences Immediate Relief

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Paul Solis-Cohen had been experiencing numbness in his left leg and foot along with sciatic pain for two years. When the pain overwhelmed the daily activities of the active 72-year-old owner of Catskill Art Supply, he finally decided to seek treatment.

“I own a farm in Shokan, New York. Between lifting 50-pound bales of hay, splitting, and stacking wood, riding horses, and playing tennis over the years, I eventually just overdid it with my back,” he says.

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HSS is well known in the Catskill and Hudson Valley regions. Paul researched HSS surgeons, found Dr. Sandhu and met with him in New York City to review his case and MRI results. Dr. Sandhu determined Paul would need lumbar decompression surgery involving a laminectomy and spinal fusion of the L4 and L5 vertebrae. Dr. Sandhu performed the surgery in late February at HSS Orthopedics at Stamford Health, using the new AR-based system.

“I felt immediate relief from my sciatic pain right after surgery. The pressure on my nerves was totally gone,” he recalls. “I was up and moving very soon thereafter and have been walking a lot. I can’t wait to accelerate the rehab process.”

Paul felt assured that HSS Orthopedics at Stamford Health was strictly adhering to all COVID-19 safety protocols, so he had no concerns about any health risks surrounding his spine surgery. Just weeks after surgery, he is eager to start traveling again to see relatives out west and spend time at their family vacation home in Mexico once Dr. Sandhu clears him to do so.

Stamford Health is currently the only hospital in the tristate area offering an AR-based system for spine surgery. “We expect that as more people in the greater New York metropolitan area become aware of HSS Orthopedics at Stamford Health and our spine system technology, we’ll become their first choice for spine care,” Dr. Sandhu adds.

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