This column will appear in the upcoming May print issue of Surgical Products.

“Good enough” is never enough in today’s modern healthcare landscape.

Nothing illustrates that concept better than the latest efforts from a team of researchers at Johns Hopkins University. The group published information highlighting its work to improve surgical navigation through the development of a unique computer algorithm meant to improve patient safety by making high-precision, minimally-invasive surgical procedures more accurate and efficient.

Utilizing a mobile C-arm, the new computerized process automatically matches two-dimensional X-ray images to those from a three-dimensional preoperative CT scan and ensures the match remains accurate throughout the surgical procedure. The algorithm serves to eliminate the process by which someone in the OR manually matches points on the patient’s body to spots on the CT scan, as such efforts often take considerable time and can lead to mistakes. Removing the extra step (not to mention the human element) from the surgical navigation process should substantially improve results and efficiency.

The next step for researchers is to prepare the image-based guidance system for future clinical testing. Optimism for its value is great, as preliminary tests indicate the algorithm may be better than traditional tracking systems currently used in ORs.

According to a recent article from Johns Hopkins about the breakthrough, researchers developed the process by taking an algorithm that was previously designed to help surgeons locate certain vertebrae during spine surgery and tweaking it to achieve improvements in surgical navigation.

When they tested the revamped algorithm, researchers found they achieved “better than 3 millimeters of accuracy, and with two frames acquired with a small angular separation, (they) could provide surgical navigation more accurately than a conventional tracker.”

The discoveries made by the Johns Hopkins researchers are extremely exciting, and their efforts to address a potential area of improvement related to minimally-invasive surgery should be applauded. "Good enough" wasn't enough for them, so they went about actively trying to improve surgical navigation.

As the demand for more procedures to become more minimally-invasive with time, it’s heartening to see the ways in which healthcare professionals are working to improve outcomes, eliminate potential mistakes, and streamline processes in the OR. My hope is that the best is yet to come.

What's your take? E-mail me at  or respond on Twitter @MikeSchmidt_SP.

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