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Former BME professor helps to improve spinal surgery outcomes

Holo Surgical, Inc.

Spinal surgeons in the U.S. have a new tool in their arsenal that could help improve patient satisfaction and reduce complications after the FDA approved a revolutionary, high-tech surgical guidance system that a former biomedical engineering professor helped develop.

The FDA granted 510(k) clearance to Surgalign Holdings, Inc. for its HOLO Portal surgical guidance system for use in lumbar spine procedures. The company said this is the first artificial intelligence-driven augmented-reality guidance system for spinal procedures in the world.

Former BME Professor Cristian Luciano has been leading the research and development of the HOLO Digital Surgery technology at Surgalign since he left UIC last year.

 During his time at UIC, Luciano co-founded, with spine surgeon and UIC faculty member Kris Siemionow, a startup called HoloSurgical that aimed to enhance patient outcomes by bringing augmented reality and artificial intelligence to the operating room. Joined later by cognitive scientist, entrepreneur, and investor Paul Lewicki, HoloSurgical was then acquired by Surgalign, which Luciano said was looking to add a surgical navigation component to its commercial portfolio.

The goal of this new technology is to allow surgeons to operate on patients using minimally invasive techniques, without making large incisions to view the areas of the spine they are operating on. Before surgery, the patient is scanned with an intraoperative CT scanner. Then the surgical navigation system autonomously creates a patient-specific surgical plan that the surgeon can follow in just a few minutes.

“Driven by artificial intelligence technology, the HOLO Portal system automatically identifies all individual anatomical components of the patient’s spine, optimizes implant sizing based on surgeon-defined pedicle fill ratio, and defines the spine implant trajectories,” Luciano said.

The computer-generated surgical plan is then presented to the surgeon directly over the patient’s back using augmented reality technology, creating a hologram-like 3D image of the spine displayed on the patient on the surgery table.

“The system allows surgeons to clearly see the internal anatomy, surgical instruments, and spine implants through the patient’s skin while staying focused on the surgical field they are working on,” he said.

Luciano has a long history with UIC, first receiving a master’s degree in industrial engineering at the school, followed by a second master’s in computer science. He went on to complete his PhD in industrial engineering and operations research in 2010 and taught for five years in mechanical and industrial engineering before moving to biomedical engineering for six years.