Computer-assisted navigation (CAN) improves the accuracy of spinal instrumentation in vertebral fractures and degenerative spine disease; however, it is not widely adopted because of lack of training, high capital costs, workflow hindrances, and accuracy concerns. We characterize shifts in the use of spinal CAN over time and across disciplines in a single-payer health system, and assess the impact of intra-operative CAN on trainee proficiency across Canada.
A prospectively maintained Ontario database of patients undergoing spinal instrumentation from 2005 to 2014 was reviewed retrospectively. Data were collected on treated pathology, spine region, surgical approach, institution type, and surgeon specialty. Trainee proficiency with CAN was assessed using an electronic questionnaire distributed across 15 Canadian orthopedic surgical and neurosurgical programs.
In our provincial cohort, 16.8% of instrumented fusions were CAN-guided. Navigation was used more frequently in academic institutions (15.9% vs. 12.3%, p<0.001) and by neurosurgeons than orthopedic surgeons (21.0% vs. 12.4%, p<0.001). Of residents and fellows 34.1% were fully comfortable using spinal CAN, greater for neurosurgical than orthopedic surgical trainees (48.1% vs. 11.8%, p=0.008). The use of CAN increased self-reported proficiency in thoracic instrumentation for all trainees by 11.0% (p=0.036), and in atlantoaxial instrumentation for orthopedic trainees by 18.0% (p=0.014).
Spinal CAN is used most frequently by neurosurgeons and in academic centers. Most spine surgical trainees are not fully comfortable with the use of CAN, but report an increase in technical comfort with CAN guidance particularly for thoracic instrumentation. Increased education in spinal CAN for trainees, particularly at the fellowship stage and, specifically, for orthopedic surgery, may improve adoption.