Spine surgery requires a lot of X-rays, and that means radiation exposure, harmful to the patient and the doctors and nurses in the operating room, but for the past decade or so that has been changing with new technology that provides body images without the radiation.
Mercy Regional Medical Center recently purchased a 7D Flash Navigation Imaging System for use with spine surgeries in its operating room. The system, built by 7D Surgical, provides images superior to X-rays without the harmful radiation.
Numerous X-rays are needed in pre-planning spine surgery to determine where to put screws, and the 7D Flash Navigation Imaging System eliminates it all, said Dr. Doug Orndorff, spine surgeon with Spine Colorado.
“It provides a real-time 3D image that confirms where to position the screw, it allows you to determine the trajectory of the screw and the length and the size of the screw,” he said. “It does it in real time and without radiation.”
The initial appeal of the 7D system was to reduce radiation, but Orndorff said the improved quality of the 3D images used in pre-planning for surgeries and in the surgery itself helps reduce operative time, reduces the time patients are under anesthesia and reduces their recovery times.
The benefits of the machine mean an increased margin for safety for patients, all around, he said.
Improper placement of pins can lead to nerve damage, increased pain and eventually another spine surgery, all of those outcomes are greatly reduced with the 7D machine.
“It gives you a lot of adaptability in the operating room to do a lot of different functions,” Orndorff said.
Better imaging is especially helpful with the most difficult cases. “Navigation is great to assist patients with difficult anatomies,” he said.
Rachel McKee, clinical solutions specialist with 7D Surgical, said about 70 7D Flash Navigation Imaging Systems are in operation in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Singapore and the Grand Cayman Islands.
Sarah Silvernail, a spokeswoman with Mercy, said the nearest hospital with a 7D system comparable to Mercy’s setup is in Littleton.
Mercy Regional Medical Center is the only hospital in the Four Corners with the technology, she said.
The machine first came to market in 2016 and was initially used in neurological surgeries and has since been adapted for use in spine surgeries, McKee said.
Orndorff said, “What appealed to me was the goal of radiation reduction and the precision.”
He said the problem with radiation is that its effects on the body are cumulative so reduction in the number of X-rays needed not only protects a patient’s health but even more critically the staff members who spend careers in and out of operating rooms working with the spine patients.
When looking at systems to replace the traditional use of X-rays, Orndorff said other systems were not only more costly but more difficult and temperamental to use.
One competing imaging machine and system cost $1.2 million compared with the $500,000 cost of the 7D system, Orndorff said.
“The other systems, if you bumped them (during imaging) they would require another half hour to get an image. With this system, it takes 30 seconds,” he said. “With other systems if the array is moved, it would require extensive time including radiation exposure. With this system, it can be done in seconds without additional radiation.”
The 7D system was purchased in July, and it has been used in spine surgeries at Mercy since January.
The system also uses computer software, which is continually upgraded over time with lessons learned from all its users, so the machine’s function improves over time.
“It’s a big computer,” Orndorff said. “Essentially, it’s learning as it gets more feedback.”