Back pain is one of our modern world’s biggest health enemies. About 85% of working people are expected to suffer from this in their lifetimes. And while in some cases, it can be alleviate though medication and physical therapy, in others, surgery is the only way to go. Brain and spinal cord cancers are one of such situations. Latest figures available for Canada show that at least 3,000 men and women were diagnosed with brain and spinal cord cancer. The type of tumour and its location are the factors affecting survival. For instance, tumours that can be surgically removed appear to have a more positive prognosis than those who are inoperable or can be removed partially. It also goes without saying that brain and spine surgeries have higher associated risks and regardless of the tumour, they require the most specialized hands to perform the operation. But what if there was a way to minimize surgical error, improve accuracy and safety, and give a better chance of recovery and survival?

We are witnessing an unprecedented time in medical innovation and technology. Doctors and surgeons are empowered and equipped to perform highly complex procedures with better and faster outcomes. We are seeing the rise of 3D printing in creating tissues and organs, customized prosthetics and implants, and surgical tools. Bioengineering are growing tissues and organs in their labs. People who regularly suffer from migraines and headaches can now benefit from an electronic aspirin as a remote controlled implant.

Patients with diabetes benefit from needle free care and telehealth. Drones are helping facilitate the provision of care in remote areas or in case of emergencies. In vitro diagnostics tools are promising to change the way we identify and prevent illnesses leading to improved outcomes for everyone. Biologics and targeted therapies have already shown the immense potential they hold in a number of chronic and life-threatening diseases, including many types of cancer. And this is just a tiny portion of the exciting innovation that is brewing in the scientific community. Disruption is definitely the word and everyone should get behind it.

The progress made is now finally entering our lives and everyone must be prepared to understand and leverage it to its fullest potential. One such disruption bringing substantial outcomes was desperately needed in the field of neurosurgery. For many years now, brain and spinal surgery were associated with very high risks and complications including nerve injury, loss of neurological function, swelling and bleeding, infection and death. Because of such inherent threats, patients were also exposed to high level radiation from x-rays, CT scans and in various cases, radiation therapy aimed at shrinking the tumour.

Image Guided Surgeryis now here to shift the paradigm. Just picture being enable to look inside the body and analyse in thorough, three-dimensional detail the brain’s structure, every vertebrae in the spine and, most importantly, the exact dimensions, location and anatomy of a tumour. This intricate view is what an increasing number of surgeons are able to see with the next-generation of image guided surgery systems for cranial or spine navigation.

Due to the precision image guided surgery systems offer, surgeons can easily develop an accurate and extremely detailed plan for the surgery that has never been seen before. Making an informed and safe decision as to where the best area of incision would be, what the most appropriate path to the tumour is, and the structures that need to be avoided. In addition to this, the images captured digitally can be changed, tweaked or merged together to allow for a level of detail that has not been seen before in an operating theatre.

Image guided surgery also enables a constant and real time flow of information. Why is this important? Brain and spine surgeries are susceptible to a wide range of complications, many of which not entirely visible to the naked eye, or only detectable after the damage has been done. Being able to receive the right data at the right moment allows surgeons to make last minute adjustments as needed. These can make the difference between life or death, between a post-operative patient who has lost the ability to walk or speak and a patient whose only concern is going back to their day to day life.

Image guided surgery systems also play a key role in shortening patient registration to just 30 seconds as well as overall operating time, reducing the size of incision and minimizing invasiveness — all of which driving improved outcomes and faster recovery times for patients. Another important advantage sits with those living with multiple conditions who may not be eligible or tolerable of such difficult surgeries.