Computer Assisted Surgery Surgical Navigation

February 12, 2014

Computer assisted surgery helps to guide a surgeon around a patient’s anatomy during a surgical procedure in much the same way that a GPS helps drivers navigate the streets as they drive around. Computer assisted surgery or CAS technology employs advanced, intuitive software that helps the surgeon with crucial pre-operative planning and intra-operative guidance. 

CAS technology essentially consists of three main components:

  1. A computer with advanced surgical navigation software
  2. An infrared navigation camera
  3. Smart Instruments, which are basically surgical instruments designed with infrared light-emitting diode (LED) technology

Students with their mentor on the labour ward In computer-assisted surgery, a virtual 3D model of the patient’s anatomy is generated. This acts as an interactive digital map that the surgeon then follows from the beginning to the end of the surgical procedure. This digital image rendering allows the surgeon to track the exact position of instruments and implants, enhancing the overall accuracy of the procedure.

Computer assisted surgery is considered to be nothing short of a medical breakthrough and rightly so. By utilizing intuitive software, an infrared navigation camera and wireless Smart Instruments, this technology enhances a surgeon’s ability to get a better picture of that patient’s unique anatomy and deliver greater surgical accuracy by being able to track instruments right through the surgery.

The use of CAS technology was at first limited only to neurosurgical procedures, where precision is of utmost importance and a fraction of a millimetre can make all the difference. Today, CAS technologies are now being utilized in various surgeries and have resulted in improved outcomes in neurosurgery, spine surgery, hip and knee replacement surgery and ENT surgery.     

Advantages of Computer Assisted Surgery

Computer assisted surgery takes visualization and surgical precision to new heights in the operating room. Some of the advantages that CAS technologies offer surgeons include:

  • Better visualization of the patient’s anatomy, which is particularly crucial when performing minimally invasive techniques
  • Ability to plan surgery with a 3-D computer model of the patient’s anatomy, saving valuable time in the OR
  • Provides the surgeon with real-time feedback on the exact location of instruments and implant, which offers the ability to correct potential errors during surgery

It is important to realize that CAS does not actually replace a surgeon’s skills. It is still the surgeon performing the procedure but only with the help of a computer. The CAS technology in the OR however offers valuable assistance to the surgeon, especially when operating in and around delicate anatomy

CAS technology may also offer multiple potential benefits to the patient:

  • Makes it possible to perform minimally invasive techniques with smaller incisions, less blood loss and reduced post-operative rehabilitation
  • The 3D computer model that is generated shows the patient’s own unique anatomy, guiding the surgeon to more accurately place implants based on the patient’s anatomy
  • In procedures such as spine and trauma surgeries, which require multiple X-rays might, CAS may reduce the number of X-rays taken and lessen the amount of radiation exposure

Computer assisted surgery is unarguably cutting-edge medical technology that offers numerous benefits to both the surgeon and the patient.