Some studies have reported that less than 50% of patients experience a reduction in symptoms following spine surgery. To further understand the poor outcomes that many patients experience, researchers at the Spine Research Institute have developed a virtual spine surgery model that can simulate the effects of a specific patient's surgical options pre-operatively. Surgeons can use the results of these simulations to determine whether a specific surgery is right for their patient and what effect implants will have on the forces developed in the rest of the spine. Surgical device companies can also use this technology to perform rapid prototyping and design patient-specific implants.
The surgical simulation example below shows a total disc replacement (shown in purple and red) at L5-S1 (where the bottom of your spine connects to your hips). A study performed at the Spine Research Institute found that for this individual, the total disc replacement resulted in increased motion at the L5-S1 level. This increase in motion created larger ligament and facet contact forces compared to the original healthy spine (as indicated by the yellow and blue arrows, respectively), putting the patient at high risk for post-surgical complications.