Healthcare Technology Featured Article

August 26, 2021

Tim Murawski Builds on Successful New Augmented Reality Spinal Operations

The medical field is constantly evolving and improving, in part, thanks to the influence of modern technology. One relatively new piece of technology that has helped continue this trend is robot-assisted medical systems, which allow physicians to use positional data coming from theirinstruments to assist in the placement of medical tools. However, even in this field, progress is ongoing. President & CCO Murawski of Augmedics has played a pivotal role in this as he seeks to build on the first successful augmented reality (AR) spinal surgery completed last year with his company’s system. Read on for an overview of the operation and a deeper look at the President & CCO’s work.

Tim Murawski and Development of New Med-tech

Before we dive into the procedure itself, let’s first examine the new medical system created by Augmedics. Under the leadership of President & CCO Tim Murawski, the company is working to significantly alter the manner in which robot-assisted medical operations are completed. To this point, these types of operations have typically been conducted with a separate display screen which the physician needs to reference while completing a procedure. This display will typically provide positional information of tools and allow for a greater degree of accuracy in performing aprocedure.

One issue, however, with this method has been the requirement for frequent context shifting while carrying out these procedures. Since the display is separate from the patient, a doctor must look back and forth between the display and the patient in order to keep track of both. This switching of attention can serve to slow down procedures and ultimately has the potential to detract from patient outcomes. In light of the issues present with this type of approach, Augmedics has worked to create a new kind of system that can reduce the need for context switching and can provide physicians with greater access to real-time positional data of their instruments.

Introduction of xvision System

In response to this need, the company has produced the xvision Spine System. Under the leadership of Tim Murawski, the system has been created to allow doctors to see both their patients and positional data of their tools at the same time. This holds the potential to reduce context shifting and may allow for greater overall patient outcomes. This is accomplished through the use of an AR headset system that displays positional data to an operating physician while they are looking at their patient.

Part of the innovative nature of the system rests on the use of a headset that serves as a real- time display. Rather than requiring a physician to look to a separate monitor when conducting a procedure, the headset projects positional data onto an operating physician’s retina while an operation is ongoing. This data is projected in conjunction with CT scan images, which help to provide the overall context of where the doctor’s tools are positioned within an operation site. The experience of using the system has been likened to x-ray vision and can be compared to being able to see a patient’s 3-dimensional spinal anatomy through their skin.

Tim Murawski Builds on Successful Procedure

The work of Tim Murawski of late has centered around building on the company’s already rich history of successes and continuing to bring the system to a wider audience. One of these successes centers around its use in the first AR minimally invasive spinal operation in June of last year. The procedure was performed at Rush University Medical Center by Dr. Frank Phillips. During the procedure, Dr. Phillips performed a lumbar fusion with spinal implants on a patient with spinal instability.

The operating physician later noted how the innovative nature of the xvision system was beneficial to his work during the procedure: “Having 3-dimensional spinal anatomic and 2-dimensional CT scan images directly projected onto the physician’s retina and superimposed over the surgical field takes spinal operations to another level,” said Dr. Phillips.

This sentiment has been shared by others who have seen and utilized the new system. It makes a significant change from older systems that utilize separate displays and can make good use of a physician’s attention while they’re completing a procedure.

Improving Patient Outcomes

The patient in this first procedure is a good example of the benefits of the system. Prior to the operation, they were experiencing severe back pain and limited mobility and they are now doing well. The potential for improvement in patient outcomes has been a main focus of the development of the system and was also something the operating physician discussed when reflecting on the historic procedure.

“Being able to place minimally invasive spinal instrumentation extremely accurately and efficiently, reducing operation time and complication risk is critical to improving outcomes for spinal surgery” noted Dr. Phillips. “Traditional navigation platforms have been shown to improve the accuracy of implant placement, however using augmented reality allows for the advantages of traditional (non-3D) navigation plus the ability to visualize the patient’s spinal anatomy in 3D through the skin.”

The system’s level of accuracy has been confirmed in a variety of tests and procedures, some of which the doctor himself has been involved in. In one percutaneous cadaver study performed by Dr. Phillips and colleagues at his medical center, the Augmedics xvision spine system demonstrated 98.9 percent screw placement accuracy. This represents a sizable step forward for robot-assisted surgical systems and allows for the ultimate goal of consistently improved patient outcomes moving forward.

While the medical field is constantly evolving, some parts of the field are doing so at a more rapid pace than others. One area in which this can be seen is through the advancement of robot-assisted medical operations. As we’ve seen above, Augmedics, under the leadership of President & CCO Tim Murawski, is one company at the head of the charge leveraging new ideas in this space related to spinal operations. The completion of the first AR spinal operation using the company’s system is a significant milestone in the ongoing development of the space and indicates that the system will enjoy increased usage and notoriety moving forward.

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