The intuitive Xvision System provides clear visualization and surgical navigation of each and every one of the spinal vertebra. The intuitive Xvision System provides clear visualization and surgical navigation of each and every one of the spinal vertebra. The intuitive Xvision System provides clear visualization and surgical navigation of each and every one of the spinal vertebra. (Photo: Courtesy Augmedics)

New goggles give surgeons X-ray vision

A Johns Hopkins study shows that the device has nearly perfect accuracy.

What does a typical operating room look like? If you closed your eyes and conjured up an image, you'd see a surgeon surrounded by other doctors and nurses. The tools they use often have cameras attached to their tips and the image is being broadcast on a nearby TV screen. So they look away from the patient in front of them and instead look at the monitor.

Here's a visual in case you're having trouble conjuring it up yourself:

During many operations, surgeons are forced to look away from the patient and at a screen instead. During many operations, surgeons are forced to look away from the patient and at a screen instead. (Photo: Wavebreakmedia / Shutterstock)

This is not an ideal situation, especially when it comes to something like spine surgery. Some estimates indicate that up to 23% of all the screws placed during spine surgeries are put in the wrong place, and could potentially paralyze the patient.

But what if, instead, the surgeon had a special pair of goggles that he could wear? And what if these goggles could put all the imagery that's on the monitor in front of the surgeon's eyes instead? It would be like having your car's GPS on your actual windshield instead of tucked away in a console or on your phone, forcing you to look away from the road to get directions. It's like Google Glass for surgeons meets Tom Cruise in "Minority Report."

Well, thanks to a new device from Israeli startup Augmedics, those glasses are now a reality. "This has all the image-guided information directly in front of you, within the goggles that you're wearing," explained Dr. Timothy Witham, a professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "This gives you added confidence, and real-time confidence that you're placing the instrumentation in the correct location. And I think that's really pretty cool."

The company recently completed its second study using the Xvision-Spine System (XVS) with surgeons from Johns Hopkins Hospital, as well as two surgeons from hospitals in Israel. During the study, the surgeons put 120 screws into the vertebrae with a placement accuracy of 96.7 percent. "The #1 benefit of Xvision is that you are always looking at the patient," said neurological surgery resident Camilo Molina. "You are never distracted from the patient."

Augmedics was founded in 2014 by Israeli entrepreneur Nissan Elimelech, an alumnus of Ben-Gurion University. "We asked ourselves, how can we help surgeons use navigation systems and also look at their patients at the same time?" the 41-year-old Elimelech explained. "With our patented device, we are able to project the patient's anatomy in real time directly onto the surgeon's retina with surgical precision and with outstanding depth perception."

Clinical trials are now underway in Israel, and the startup hopes to get FDA approval later this year.

A surgeon using the new Augmedics device. A surgeon using the new Augmedics device. (Photo: Courtesy Augmedics)

The new device takes advantage of the burgeoning field of augmented reality – the ability to layer a screen of information onto something you're seeing in the real world. The most common example in use today is for people who play the popular Pokemon Go game. They point their phone's camera at something in the real world – like a field of grass in front of them – and Pokemon characters appear on the field. Word came out last week that Apple is considering adding a dedicated augmented reality camera to its 2020 iPhones.

And Augmedics is not the first company to apply the technology to glasses. Another Israeli company, called RideOn, has used it to create ski goggles that add layers of information in front of the eyes of skiers.

MORE FROM THE GRAPEVINE:

Photos and SlideshowsPhotos and Slideshows
New goggles give surgeons X-ray vision
A Johns Hopkins study shows that the device has nearly perfect accuracy.