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Surgeons use x-ray vision technology in minimally invasive spinal surgery

Posted at 11:03 AM, Jun 26, 2020

CHICAGO, Ill. -- As states begin to reopen, the new stage in the pandemic means elective surgeries are back on schedule.

For 51-year-old mother of two Honaire Murillo, the pandemic delayed much needed spinal surgery.

“The shooting pains all the time and you know, I have kids I have to run around. And so, it took about a year and I was so disappointed,” said Murillo.

About 24 years ago, the aspiring pro-bodybuilder’s dreams were cut short when she was hit by a motorboat while visiting Puerto Rico on business.

More than 20 surgeries later, Murillo needed another one.

“The pain started coming back and so I knew I was going to have more surgery,” she said.

Last week, doctors at Rush University Medical Center’s Midwest Orthopaedics in Chicago were able to get Murillo into surgery for a first-of-its-kind procedure. It was a minimally invasive spine surgery that utilized augmented reality.

“The efficiency this provides because of the accuracy and the visualization of the spine is remarkable,” said Dr. Frank Phillips, the director and minimally invasive spinal surgeon at Rush who performed the procedure.

A headset guidance system allowed Dr. Phillips to see Murillo’s spinal anatomy – essentially giving him x-ray vision.

“That's exactly what it is,” said Dr. Phillips. “It really is x-ray vision. Except it's not just x-ray vision. You're actually seeing the real spine through the skin.”

The CT scanned images are directly projected onto the surgeon’s retina and then superimposed right on top of the patient’s surgical area.

“I was just blown away,” said Dr. Phillips. “The minute I put my headset on and looked down at the spine, it was like that wow moment. I was like ‘this is crazy.’”

Researchers say the FDA-cleared x-vision system could revolutionize the way surgeons perform complex procedures.

“It's so accurate, so precise, the visualization so good, you can do the surgery more efficiently, which obviously translates into less anesthetic time and advantages to the patient,” said Phillips.

For Murillo, who eventually went pro 15 years after her accident, this latest groundbreaking surgery has her thinking about another return to competition.

“I'm still looking to see if I could comeback one more time. I'm not sure. But, yeah to me it's a dream.”

Augmedics, the maker of the technology, says it plans to explore the x-ray vision technology beyond just spinal surgery.