Spine surgery is one of the most delicate operations. Accuracy is critical, but even in the hands of the most skilled surgeons, screws can be misplaced up to 40% of the time. Doctors are pioneering a new procedure that eliminates the guesswork.
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Melissa: Imagine a global positioning system that works inside the human body. Surgeons say they are now able to achieve the same kind of pinpoint accuracy for back patients. Chantai Adams: Here’s in the bone pinching nerve and it was just killing me. Melissa: 32-year-old Chantai Adams had a spinal fusion to relieve the pain. Doctors used tiny surgical screws and hardware to link a portion of her vertebrae together eliminating any movement. It’s a very common procedure but one that doctors admit is not always perfect. Richard Spiro: In an ideal world where you’re doing day to day surgery, you’re probably—misplacement rate is probably about 10%. Melissa: In very complicated cases, experts say surgical screws can be misplaced up to 40% of the time. Neurosurgeon, Dr. Richard Spiro is pioneering a procedure that guides the screw placement. Doctors take a scan of the spine creating a 3D image. Cameras in the operating room communicate with transmitters on the tips of surgical tools. A computer monitors the movement. Richard Spiro: And then we’re able to place the hardware based on that real-time information just like a GPS gives you when you’re trying to make decisions about to turn right or to turn left. We’re doing the same thing. Melissa: With this system, doctors say they are accurate within 1 mm, meaning fewer complications for patients and for some, a faster recovery helping put patients like Chantai back in the driver seat. I’m Melissa Medley reporting.

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