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Medical innovations: O-arm gives doctors upperhand in spine surgeries

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MURRAY, Utah (News4Utah) —  The O-arm® technology enhances outcomes for spine surgery patients by allowing surgeons to visualize in real-time the surgical site. This permits more precise placement of instrumentation and hardware.

By combining mobility, low-dose X-ray images and speedy image processing, the O-arm® provides live 3-D navigation during surgery. Within seconds the surgeon receives highly detailed surgical site images. The O-arm® imaging system makes possible more precise placement of spinal hardware. Other benefits include smaller incision, shorter surgery duration, less post-surgical pain and faster recovery than with traditional spine surgery techniques.

Guiding spine surgeons through complex surgeries, the O-arm features a number of innovations that make it superior to the familiar C-arm fluoroscopes currently used in most surgical suites. These innovative capabilities include:

  • A ring-shaped gantry that can be opened and closed, allowing the O-arm to be moved into position without moving the patient
  • An imaging ring that can be tilted and angled to capture images not possible with older, more limited systems
  • A large digital flat-panel screen in the surgical suite for immediate viewing to assist the surgeon with positioning in real time
  • Programmable re-positioning and ultra-fast imaging to reduce the exposure of patients and staff to X-rays
  • Detailed 3-D images of the surgical site, available to the surgeon within seconds. This capability is especially useful in confirming that hardware has been ideally placed, helping to reduce the need for later revisions

Laura Jarman, 50, of Alpine, was diagnosed with scoliosis as a teenager. Doctors told her they couldn’t do much because she had finished growing.

“There wasn’t a lot of hope for that at that time,” said Laura. 

She’s been living with chronic pain for decades but it was progressively getting worse. “It was part of every moment of my life.”

But the problems were no match for Dr. Stephen Warner, the Director of the Spine Development Team at Intermountain Medical Center.

“We had to break her spine in two places to correct the deformity,” said Dr. Warner. 

Laura’s case was so severe her lower back was bending the wrong direction.

“When I was first diagnosed, my curvature was measured at 30 degrees. By the time I went into surgery it was 60 degrees,” said Laura. 

Dr. Warner and his team used the O-arm to fix Laura’s spine. 

It cut surgery time, reduces bleeding and improved patient outcome.

Instead of several surgeries, they did Laura’s intricately complex surgery in one fell swoop. It still took 12 hours in the operating room.

“It’s real benefit is in complex deformity where you have abnormal anatomy to place these instruments,” said Dr. Warner. 

Laura’s surgery was in October, and today she feels and looks like a different person.

“The thing I like to hear is ‘you gave me my life back,'” said Dr. Warner. 

That’s exactly how Laura feels these days. She’s now living without constant nagging and many times excruciating pain.

Laura had lost 5 inches off her height. After the surgery she’s gained back two of the inches. She is so grateful.

Intermountain Medical Center says the O-arm can also be used for navigating placement of deep brain stimulation electrodes for patients with Parkinson’s disease.

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