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Shoulder replacement surgeries take on new dimension at one San Diego hospital

More technology is making its way into San Diego operating rooms. KPBS Health Reporter Matt Hoffman tells us about a new visual enhancement program that doctors here are using for the first time.

Mixed reality has made its way into San Diego operating rooms. A local doctor said the three dimensional technology will make shoulder replacement procedures more precise and efficient.

"Bringing VR (virtual reality), mixed reality to the operating room has been an interest for a while now," said Scripps Health Orthopedic Surgeon Brian Rebolledo.

Rebolledo is the first Scripps doctor to use the mixed-reality system in San Diego. The technology is not virtual reality because doctors can still see what they are doing. Surgeons wear a headset with special eye-glasses that show holographic surgery models in three dimensions. To the doctor, the images of the operable body parts look like they are suspended in the air.

"That’s when we can then manipulate those holograms and place them over where we need to have them," said Rebolledo. "You look a little funny (when using the headset). It’s voice command. It’s visual command with your fingers, but I can drag that over almost as if it would be a piece of art you’re replicating."

To create the hologram model, patients have to first undergo a CT scan. Rebolledo said precision is key when it comes to shoulder procedures and being able to have a digital reference right in his line of sight helps with complicated operations.

"Shoulder replacement is (like) a lot of surgeries — a game of millimeters," Rebolledo said. "To be off by just a little bit can really have severe implications and so for us to be able to use this and really make it perfect each time is a significant value and benefit to patients."

Last Friday Rebolledo successfully completed his first shoulder implant using the mixed-reality system. He said the technology is not a fad and is all geared toward improving patient outcomes.

"You think about how surgery has changed really even in the last 10 years — we have robots in the operating room. We have mixed reality in the operating room. We have better implants now," he said.

This mixed-reality system was created by medical supplier Stryker. A spokesperson said the technology focuses on shoulder surgeries but other companies use similar versions for spine and hip procedures.

  • In an all too familiar trend, case numbers, hospitalizations and deaths are on the rise as the U.S. makes its way through another summer coronavirus surge. Next, months after a vaccine mandate went into effect for San Diego city employees, those employees who refuse both vaccines and COVID testing are starting to get Notices of Termination.