Technology improvements for image-guided and minimally invasive spine procedures

Kevin Cleary, Mark Clifford, Dan Stoianovici, Matthew Freedman, Seong K. Mun, Vance Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


This paper reports on technology developments aimed at improving the state of the art for image-guided minimally invasive spine procedures. Back pain is a major health problem with serious economic consequences. Minimally invasive procedures to treat back pain are rapidly growing in popularity due to improvements in technique and the substantially reduced trauma to the patient versus open spinal surgery. Image guidance is an enabling technology for minimally invasive procedures, but technical problems remain that may limit the wider applicability of these techniques. The paper begins with a discussion of low back pain and the potential shortcomings of open back surgery. The advantages of minimally invasive procedures are enumerated, followed by a list of technical problems that must be overcome to enable the more widespread dissemination of these techniques. The technical problems include improved intraoperative imaging, fusion of images from multiple modalities, the visualization of oblique paths, percutaneous spine tracking, mechanical instrument guidance, and software architectures for technology integration. Technical developments to address some of these problems are discussed next. The discussion includes intraoperative computerized tomography (CT) imaging, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)/CT image registration, three-dimensional (3-D) visualization, optical localization, and robotics for percutaneous instrument placement. Finally, the paper concludes by presenting several representative clinical applications: biopsy, vertebroplasty, nerve and facet blocks, and shunt placement. The program presented here is a first step to developing the physician-assist systems of the future, which will incorporate visualization, tracking, and robotics to enable the precision placement and manipulation of instruments with minimal trauma to the patient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)249-261
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Information Technology in Biomedicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 2002


  • Interoperative imaging
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)/computerized tomography (CT) registration
  • Medical robotics
  • Minimally invasive procedures
  • Spine
  • Three-dimensional (3-D) visualization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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