Image guided surgery (IGS), also called surgical navigation, is a technology that allows surgeons to see where their tools are relative to the patient’s anatomy throughout a procedure. IGS is particularly useful during surgeries that require high precision like spine surgery. It’s like GPS for surgeons – the surgical tool’s exact location is shown on a map of the patient’s spine in real-time.

Related Article: Machine Vision in Medicine

Reliable and accurate imaging in the operating room improves safety and outcomes for patients undergoing spine surgery.1 A large number of spine procedures involve placing screws into the small pedicles of vertebrae. If these screws are placed incorrectly, they can damage the patient’s vascular structures, nerve roots, and spinal cord.2 Precise and accurate screw placement is important for a good outcome.

IGS is designed to help surgeons operate with high accuracy to improve patient safety and surgical outcomes. Image guidance can be used by spine surgeons in virtually all types of procedures, such as spinal fusions and tumor resections.1,3,4 Some of the benefits of using IGS include:


  • Optimized placement of screws during spinal fusions for mechanical stability1
  • Reduced risk of requiring a second surgery to revise screw placement5
  • Precise removal of spinal tumors1,8
  • May reduce surgical complications (e.g. spinal cord injury, vascular injury, pulmonary injury)2
  • May decrease operative time, which can decrease the patient’s risk of postoperative infection6
  • May decrease risk of surgical errors such as operating on the incorrect level7


benefits of image guided surgery

During IGS, the movement of the surgical tools are displayed on a screen in relation to the patient’s spine. This helps surgeons identify and avoid the spinal cord, nerve roots, and blood vessels.3 It also helps surgeons place screws and other implants properly.9 As a result, IGS helps surgeons perform safer procedures.

If you require spine surgery to treat your condition, you may want to discuss IGS with your surgeon. The 7D Surgical System is an IGS system that uses machine-vision to allow surgeons to visualize patient anatomy in 3D and see the precise location of tools. It is the only IGS system that does not use radiation during the surgical procedure. For more information, ask your surgeon if IGS with the 7D Surgical System is right for you.

Related Article: Exposure to radiation in the operating room


  1. Desai B, Hobbs J, Hartung G, et al. Image-guidance technology and the surgical resection of spinal column tumors. J Neurooncol. 2017;131(3):425-435. doi:10.1007/s11060-016-2325-4
  2. Chan A, Parent E, Narvacan K, San C, Lou E. Intraoperative image guidance compared with free-hand methods in adolescent idiopathic scoliosis posterior spinal surgery: a systematic review on screw-related complications and breach rates. Spine J. 2017;17(9):1215-1229. doi:10.1016/j.spinee.2017.04.001
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  7. Upadhyaya CD, Wu JC, Chin CT, Balamurali G, Mummaneni P V. Avoidance of wrong-level thoracic spine surgery: Intraoperative localization with preoperative percutaneous fiducial screw placement. Clinical article. J Neurosurg Spine. 2012;16(3):280-284. doi:10.3171/2011.3.SPINE10445
  8. Drazin D, Bhamb N, Al-Khouja LT, et al. Image-guided resection of aggressive sacral tumors. Neurosurg Focus. 2017;42(1):1-11. doi:10.3171/2016.6.FOCUS16125
  9. Ahn J, Mayo B, Kuhns B, et al. Navigation in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. Minim Invasive Spine Surg. 2018;5(I):339-339. doi:10.5005/jp/books/14205_39