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Surgeons’ Perceptions of Spinal Navigation: Analysis of Key Factors Affecting the Lack of Adoption of Spinal Navigation Technology

Alexander D. Choo, Gilad Regev, MD, Steven R. Garfin, MD, Choll W. Kim, MD, PhD
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of California, San Diego



Computer-assisted spinal navigation allows for real time localization of surgical instruments in multiple views. Its use decreases radiation exposure and clears the surgical field of the C-arm fluoroscope. Despite these advantages, spinal navigation has yet to gain general acceptance among spine surgeons. The purpose of this study is to survey spine surgeons about their opinions on the strengths and weaknesses of spinal navigation.


Spine surgeons from the membership of the Spine Arthroplasty Society (SAS) and the Society for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (SMISS) were surveyed regarding their current use of spinal navigation and their perceptions of the strengths and weaknesses of spinal navigation (N = 147). Responses were analyzed using 2-sided chi-square tests.


Most spine surgeons (63.4%) have only superficial experience with spinal navigation, and 76.2% of surgeons rarely use spinal navigation in their cases. Spine surgeons have the most experience with virtual fluoroscopy spinal navigation systems (35.9%). Surgeons considered longer operating times (63.5%), increased cost (48.3%), lack of necessity (40.7%), unreliable navigation accuracy (37.9%), and too many intraoperative glitches (35.2%) to be the major weaknesses of spinal navigation.

Surgeons considered decreased radiation exposure to the surgeon (76.1%), increased screw placement accuracy (65.7%), decreased radiation exposure to the patient (41.8%), and keeping the C-arm away from the operating field (29.1%) to be the greatest advantages of spinal navigation. Among the types of procedures surgeons believe are most likely to benefit from spinal navigation are minimally invasive instrumentation and fusion (72.5%) and complex open deformity (55.6%).


Most spine surgeons have only superficial experience in spinal navigation. The most commonly selected weaknesses of spinal navigation are increased operative time, cost, and lack of necessity. Increased fluoroscopy and MIS use in the future may shift focus from weaknesses to the strengths of spinal navigation, including decreased radiation exposure and elimination of the C-arm from the operative field.

Spinal navigation, survey, radiation exposure, spinal navigation accuracy
Volume 2 Issue 4