I saw a news report that doctors can use computers now to surgically fuse the spine. How does this work?

Computer-assisted surgery has been in use for over 10 years now. Infrared cameras at the end of probes and instruments are used to transmit images or pictures to a computer screen monitor.

Wireless sensors are part of the camera system. They detect movement and can be attached
to any instrument. Since there are no batteries or power cords, the tools are free to move as directed by the surgeon.

Before entering the body, the computer is given data from CT scans. This allows the doctor to navigate the body. The computer calculates the thickness of the bone and drills the holes for screws used to hold the bones together. The system keeps the screw from going all the way through the bone. Damage to nearby blood vessels and nerves is avoided with this method.

Marcus Richter, et al. Computer-assisted Posterior Instrumentation of the Cervical and Cervico-thoracic Spine. In European Spine Journal. February 2004. Vol. 13. No. 1. Pp. 50-59.

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