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New software could help improve accuracy of spine surgeries

Newly-developed software may help to improve the outcomes of patients in New Mexico and around the country who undergo spine surgeries. Created by researchers at John Hopkins University, LevelCheck software can be used to help surgeons ensure that they operate on the correct vertebrae during spine surgery. In its first clinical evaluation, researchers determined that the software could locate the correct level of the spine in 26 seconds with 100 percent accuracy.

Because a surgical mistake during this type of surgery could result in serious complications that require revisions, achieving 100 percent accuracy in spine surgery is very important for patients. Currently, about one out of every 3,110 spine surgeries that are performed in the U.S. are done on the wrong level of the spine. This means that around four people each week suffer from complications related to wrong-level spine surgery.

According to researchers, surgeons may struggle to identify the correct vertebrae to operate on because the spine contains repeating elements that all look the same. Without LevelCheck software, surgeons rely on methods like counting down from a patient's skull to their tailbone and marking the patient's body with pins. The new software allows surgeons to compare an X-ray image with the pin markers to the initial CT image that they used to plan the surgery.

A patient who has had wrong-level spine surgery often experiences pain, spinal degeneration and other complications. To seek compensation for the consequences of a surgical error, many patients choose to file a medical malpractice claim. An attorney may be able to determine the full extent of an injured client's damages and pursue compensation from the responsible parties.

Source: Health Canal, "Spinal Surgery: Right on Target," April 13, 2015

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