Given the choice, which tool would an experienced traveler use to get exactly where he needed to be with the greatest efficiency? A paper map or a GPS system?
A new highly advanced imaging system now gives physicians a similar choice as they navigate the delicate and complex path of surgery on the spine. This revolutionary tool is known simply as the O-arm.
"The O-arm is a multi-dimensional, portable, surgical imaging system," explains neurosurgeon Kevin N. Ammar, MD. "It provides real-time, intra-operative imaging of a patient's anatomy with high quality images in both two and three dimensions."
In this region, the O-arm is currently only available at St. Joseph's/Candler. Dr. Ammar uses the analogy of the map and the GPS when comparing the new technology to the more common intra-operative imaging system known as fluoroscopy.
"Flouroscopy essentially produces a 'live' single-dimensional x-ray," Ammar says. "While this technology remains extremely valuable, the O-arm provides the ability to see anatomical details in two or three dimensions. This gives a surgeon a greater understanding of the anatomical details relevant to the procedure, and also to precisely navigate surgical instruments within this field."
Dr. Ammar notes that while the technology may be used in any procedure that involves the placement of spinal hardware, it provides distinct advantages for certain surgeries.
"The O-arm's true value is in two benefits," Ammar says. "The first is providing the ability to navigate the placement of hardware in patients with complex spinal conditions, where typical anatomical relationships are often difficult to ascertain with traditional imaging, and the second is in allowing precise localization for minimally-invasive procedures."
These benefits are carried over to patients by opening up the possibility of less invasive procedures and faster recoveries, while still providing the physicians with unparalleled imaging quality.
"Precision is the key word here," Ammar says. "Precisely placed incisions allow procedures to be performed with minimal disruption to surrounding muscles and soft tissues. Similarly, accurately placed hardware has the greatest efficacy. The patient ultimately benefits through excellent outcomes with minimal recovery times."
For more information on the O-Arm, visit