Back in shape

by Wynce Nolley

Our Lady of Lourdes acquires SpineMap 3D software to aid its surgeons in delicate surgical navigation.

Our Lady of Lourdes acquires SpineMap 3D software to aid its surgeons in delicate surgical navigation. by Wynce Nolley

Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2013

Photo by Robin May

One day at her office, local receptionist Vicki Habbit felt a sharp pain cascade through her right leg. After a few days of enduring this sting, Habbit saw her doctor who told her that one of her spinal fusions had given way.

"I did some exercise that I guess I wasn't supposed to do and one of the fusions had come undone," explains Habbit.

Habbit's spinal problems began back in college when she was diagnosed with scoliosis, or an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine, and needed to have a part of her upper spine fused.

After her initial visit with her doctor, Habbit, 68, wanted a second opinion, which is how she was referred to Dr. Neil Romero, an orthopedic surgeon who confirmed her biggest concern.

"He told me what I expected, that I was going to need surgery," says Habbit.

Romero's recommendation was exactly what Habbit feared - her first spinal fusion surgery had been difficult - given how distorted Habbit's anatomy had become after the first fusion and the subsequent degradation to her spine.

"What happened was they fused her in her upper spine, and then the lower spine degenerated and collapsed to the point where it disfigured itself," explains Romero, who practices at Lafayette General Medical Center, Louisiana Orthopaedic Specialists and Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center. "So that's what we call a degenerative scoliosis. It's not like she was born with it; she developed it over time."

Photo by Wynce Nolley

Donovan Brandon, a surgical radiology technician at Lourdes, begins a
diagnostics test on the SpineNav 3D.

However, Romero told Habbit that Lourdes had recently acquired SpineMap 3D spine navigation software, which utilizes a portable X-Ray camera called a C-Arm that gives surgeons a much more accurate image of the patient's spine.

"So when you're placing instrumentation, instead of just having a fluoroscopic or an X-ray, which gives you just one plane, you can actually see it in three dimensions," says Romero. "It helps place instrumentation in patients who have very distorted anatomy.

"We usually use anatomic landmarks to place screws in the spine, but we usually use X-rays as well," continues Romero. "What this does is it allows us to use the landmarks, X-rays and the 3D imaging, so it'll speed up time in the operating room and hopefully help place the instrumentation more accurately."

Romero says that this new technology allows surgeons to more accurately place screws in patients who may have distorted anatomy due to a previous surgery where landmarks are difficult to perceive, as was the case with Habbit.

"You're mainly just going on X-ray, and sometimes that's just not good enough, so this really gives you an extra tool," says Romero.

"The navigation also helps with time and efficiencies in the OR," adds Kate Oliver, director of surgical services at Lourdes. "You know, less anesthesia or being under anesthesia, but also you have the anatomical landmarks, so when you're looking at the image right there it just kind of hones into your placement."

According to Romero, the aid of this equipment helped shave about an hour off Habbit's surgery time, as well as reduce blood loss and unnecessary exposure to radiation.

"We'd have probably had a difficult time doing her," says Romero. "It probably would've taken her a lot longer. At her age, you kind of have to make the decision of whether you want to keep her on the table for that long versus not doing the surgery."

According to Habbit, going through with the surgery, despite its potential trauma, was the right call; she's had no need for physical therapy and absolutely no leg pain.

"I've started back working full time. I'm doing what I'm supposed to do," says Habbit. "I was so apprehensive on doing this one because I had been through so much. Now I'm just glad I had it done."