Meet Augmedics, an Israeli startup that is working on an augmented reality headsets for surgeons performing spinal surgery. The company is participating in the Startup Battlefield at TechCrunch Disrupt SF.
Computer assisted surgery systems are nothing new. Plenty of surgeons look at a screen while performing an operation. But Vizor is something new. Instead of making you look away from your patient, the device acts as a heads up display and gives you superpowers.
Vizor is a sort of eyewear with clear glasses. But it can also project your patient’s spine in 3D so that you can locate your tools in real time even if it’s below the skin. It has multiple sensors to detect your head movements as well.
“What we are projecting is the patient's CT scans,” co-founder and CEO Nissan Elimelech told me before Disrupt. “We do not have an active X-ray device that emits X-ray light. But instead, we're using the patient's CT scan with a very sophisticated registration process. And then we project a 3D model of the CT scan.”
Hospitals first have to segment the spine from the rest of the scan, such as soft tissue. They already have all the tools they need to do it themselves.
Then, doctors have to place markers on the patient’s body to register the location of the spine. This way, even if the patient moves while breathing, Vizor can automatically adjust the position of the spine in real time.
Surgeons also need to put markers on standard surgical tools. After a calibration process, Vizor can precisely display the orientation of the tools during the operation. According to Augmedics, it takes ten to twenty seconds to calibrate the tools. The device also lets you visualize the implants, such as screws.
Elimelech says that the overall system accuracy is about 1.4mm. The FDA requires a level of accuracy below 2mm. The company is still working on FDA approval before it can sell Vizor to hospitals in the U.S. It could still take a year or two. But some surgeons have already tried it.
“We showed it to 50 spine surgeons right now. They're all overwhelmed by the technology,” Elimelech said. “They could actually feel like they had superhero capabilities.”
And if you think spine surgery is a niche market, think again because navigation systems cost a small fortune. Neurosurgeons already use navigation systems, but it’s not as common for spine surgery. “We're going to be reasonably competitive with other products,” Elimelech said. Current systems cost between $200,000 and $500,000.