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Imaging software improves pelvic surgery

January 19, 2012 12:00:00 AM PST
A broken pelvis is a painful injury and often a difficult one to repair. Many organs, nerves and blood vessels lie within the pelvis, so getting to the bones can be tricky. Now surgeons are using new technology to fix the problem.

Jenna Quarne will never forget the terrifying bike ride she recently took.

"The car in front of me was taking a right, so I just moved over to kind of go around them," said Quarne.

Quarne's bike got caught in railway tracks, and the momentum of the downward hill kicked in.

"It just threw me off the bike and I landed in the street," said Quarne. "I knew that something probably pretty severe was wrong."

Quarne shattered her pelvis and needed surgery to repair it. Her doctor used computer-guided navigation to fix her fracture.

"The whole idea of navigation is pretty simple," said orthopedic surgeon Dr. Amir Matityahu. "It's creating a virtual space to work within so you don't have to use radiation."

Instead of having to take numerous X-rays during the surgery, the doctor uses the computer software to plan the procedure. First, sensors are placed on the pelvis. Then the system turns CAT scans into a three-dimensional model. The computer creates a roadmap much like GPS that tells the surgeons precisely where to place the bone-repairing screws.

"The trajectory has to be almost exact. It has to be within 1 and 2 degrees and within 1 to 2 millimeters," said Matityahu.

A green dot on a screen shows if Matityahu is marking the correct spot right inside the bone. If he places it in the wrong spot, a red alert lets him know.

The navigation method means better accuracy and possibly quicker surgery, and fewer pieces of hardware. Also, since surgeons don't have to keep taking X-rays, there's less radiation exposure.

It's been four months since Quarne's surgery. Now she's back to walking the hills of the city she loves.

"No pain," said Quarne. "I can't tell at all."

Matityahu says he's one of only about five surgeons in the country using this software for this type of surgery. He says the software was just recently FDA-approved for this procedure and a few other orthopedic applications.

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