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How technology is shaping the future of surgery

Article-How technology is shaping the future of surgery

Canva surgery
From metaverse to AI, AR and VR, we examine the potential impact of technological advancements in enhancing surgical outcomes.

Technological advancements today are gradually changing the practice of surgery with several innovations in imaging and robotics, among other fields. The future of surgery will increasingly require cooperation between humans and healthcare technology and successfully complement each other’s work.

In an interview, Dr. Timothy F. Witham, Professor of Neurosurgery and Orthopaedic Surgery, Director, The Johns Hopkins Bayview Spine Program; Director, The Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery Spinal Fusion Laboratory; Associate Program Director, Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery Residency, Baltimore, US, discusses the applications of different technological advancements in surgery and its potential for increasing less invasive surgeries and moving towards preventative healthcare. Excerpts:

How successful has augmented reality(AR) been in spine surgery?

AR has been quite successful. At the same time, several improvements are being made to enhance it further. Currently, the indications are relatively limited for the technology in spine surgery. It is being utilised for placing implants into the spine, known as pedicle screws, commonly used for a procedure called spinal fusion. We can use AR technology to place these screws very accurately. But it does come at the cost of taking more time than usual in the operating room. Also, the technology carries some expense to the hospital. Some of the improvements in the future will have to include making it less time-consuming, improving efficiency and utilising it for additional aspects of spine surgery.

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Dr. Timothy F. Witham

What are some of the main challenges of incorporating such technologies?

Some surgeons can be reluctant to change the way they do procedures and don’t want to be slowed down by it. The way to overcome that barrier is to show them that these technologies can be an augment in making the procedures more accurate and efficient. Therefore, we have to utilise the technology better and improve it so that it’s easier to use for everyone. We’re not there yet; not everyone has adopted this technology, but it will improve.

Which technologies do you think will become more mainstream in the next decade?

I think we are going to move to the metaverse. Technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality, and virtual reality are all developing and moving forward and are going to play a key role in medicine. For example, these technologies will further enhance electronic medical records and imaging technology and ensure that we are able to communicate better through the internet. There will always be a human component to medicine, but these technologies will play a more significant role in what we do in the future.

In your opinion, how do you see the field of surgery evolving?

One of the major things that will happen in surgery is that we will be carrying out less invasive procedures thanks to advancements in technology. There will also be more focus on preventive medicine and potentially eliminating or diminishing the need for certain surgical care procedures by preventing certain diseases from getting to the point of surgery. In the future, we will also be able to do much more with imaging and testing with blood work and genetic tests, where people will get a total body scan. It will be able to show if people are at risk for certain diseases and allow for building a preventive strategy.

This article appears in the Daily Dose 2023. Read the full issue online today.

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