Augmented and virtual reality in spine surgery, current applications and future potentials

Hamid Ghaednia, Mitchell S. Fourman, Amanda Lans, Kelsey Detels, Hidde Dijkstra, Sophie Lloyd, Allison Sweeney, Jacobien H.F. Oosterhoff, Joseph H. Schwab

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND CONTEXT: The field of artificial intelligence (AI) is rapidly advancing, especially with recent improvements in deep learning (DL) techniques. Augmented (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are finding their place in healthcare, and spine surgery is no exception. The unique capabilities and advantages of AR and VR devices include their low cost, flexible integration with other technologies, user-friendly features and their application in navigation systems, which makes them beneficial across different aspects of spine surgery. Despite the use of AR for pedicle screw placement, targeted cervical foraminotomy, bone biopsy, osteotomy planning, and percutaneous intervention, the current applications of AR and VR in spine surgery remain limited. PURPOSE: The primary goal of this study was to provide the spine surgeons and clinical researchers with the general information about the current applications, future potentials, and accessibility of AR and VR systems in spine surgery. STUDY DESIGN/SETTING: We reviewed titles of more than 250 journal papers from google scholar and PubMed with search words: augmented reality, virtual reality, spine surgery, and orthopaedic, out of which 89 related papers were selected for abstract review. Finally, full text of 67 papers were analyzed and reviewed. METHODS: The papers were divided into four groups: technological papers, applications in surgery, applications in spine education and training, and general application in orthopaedic. A team of two reviewers performed paper reviews and a thorough web search to ensure the most updated state of the art in each of four group is captured in the review. RESULTS: In this review we discuss the current state of the art in AR and VR hardware, their preoperative applications and surgical applications in spine surgery. Finally, we discuss the future potentials of AR and VR and their integration with AI, robotic surgery, gaming, and wearables. CONCLUSIONS: AR and VR are promising technologies that will soon become part of standard of care in spine surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1617-1625
Number of pages9
JournalSpine Journal
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Augmented Reality
  • Machine Learning
  • Mixed Reality
  • Spine Surgery
  • Virtual Reality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Clinical Neurology


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