How augmented reality is used in hip replacement surgery

Marcin Samek is part man, part robot, and finally pain-free, thanks to the gift of modern medicine.

"It's so much pain to have before the operation. It's basically constant pain," Samek said. "You can't really lift your leg more than maybe a couple of inches off the ground. And the pain is so bad that really you have no life."

Samek is thought to be the first patient in the New York area, and perhaps the country, to undergo a total hip replacement operation using augmented reality technology. The surgery took place at Mount Sinai under the guidance of Dr. Brett Hayden, an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.

Hip replacement surgery requires the utmost precision because dislocation is incredibly common.

"The dislocation occurs when the bone impinges on the bone or soft tissue. The femoral head will actually come out of the socket in multiple different directions," Hayden said. "Obviously, that's less than ideal. That usually requires patients to go to the emergency room and get admitted to the hospital in order to place it back."

Samek was considered at high risk of dislocation because he suffers from osteonecrosis, a degenerative bone disorder, where his femoral head actually collapsed on itself because of diseased bone. Samek had one hip replacement a few years ago. He initially did fine but began to have issues with recurrent dislocations.

Samek's surgery was done with the help of a holographic lens made by Microsoft. Multiple CT scans are taken and the hologram is created.

"The augmented reality allows us to overlay the CT scan so we can see both the patient's anatomy and the holographic plan 3D at the same time so we can compare what their anatomy looks like based on the CT as well," Hayden said, "and where the components should go."

If it sounds cool, that's because it is.

"It's very cool — it's certainly promising," Hayden said. 

He added that the procedure, which is still early in its process, could be a game-changer.

"This is a science and we have to evaluate with the data, the patient outcomes, the radiographic outcomes," Hayden said. "And certainly the goal here is to minimize complications, particularly mal-positioned implants, which would lead to dislocations or other complications."

NOTE: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the patient's name. It is Marcin Samek.