Proprio uses AI and light field imaging to help surgeons visualize spinal operations

The technology collects a “memory bank” of data on spinal surgeries that providers can learn from.
article cover

Arctic-Images/Getty Images

· 4 min read

The future of spinal surgery might receive a welcome technological advancement: a computer-assisted navigation platform that helps surgeons perform complicated operations. And it may save health systems millions on additional technology costs.

Seattle-based medical technology company Proprio has started training surgeons to use its FDA-cleared device to navigate spinal surgeries through artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality, and light field. The technology in Paradigm, a navigation platform, helps surgeons digitally map and visualize the surgery site. It also has the potential to decrease complications and make operations more efficient.

“[Spinal operations] are very delicate, complicated surgeries. So we felt like this is a great place to start with applying the technology so that we can make these types of surgeries safer,” Samuel Browd, Proprio’s co-founder and chief medical officer, told Healthcare Brew. “This is going to be broadly applicable to not just neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery, but a bunch of different things.”

How does it work?

Before traditional spinal surgeries, physicians take CT scans of the spine while a patient lies on their back. However, surgeons often operate with a patient on their stomach, so the preoperative scans may not align with the spine’s position during the procedure, Browd said.

“What happens is you’ve had an image at one point in time that actually doesn’t really correlate with the position of the patient on the table. So again, it just pumps [up] that level of complexity,” Browd said.

To counteract that problem, Proprio’s Paradigm technology combines those traditional scans with light imaging to create a 3D view of the patient’s anatomy during surgery, including the exact degree of the spine’s curve, to better prepare for surgery, David Fiorella, Proprio’s upstream marketing director, told Healthcare Brew.

This eliminates the need for additional scans during the surgery and can shave ~30 minutes off the total operation time, according to a statement from Proprio.

The technology also helps declutter an operating room, creating more space for staff. Modern operating rooms have multiple monitors and devices that only serve one function, Browd said. The Paradigm technology can take the place of multiple imaging devices and allow hospitals to invest less in single-function technology like a CT scanner, he added.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.

“Maybe you’re going to buy less of those kinds of equipment, saving millions and millions of dollars, potentially performing the surgery at an even better, higher level,” Proprio co-founder and CEO Gabriel Jones said.

Data-driven future

Because each spinal surgery is “unique or complicated,” the Paradigm technology can collect data on different surgeries so providers can learn from previous procedures, Browd said. The Paradigm technology creates a “memory bank” of data on different spinal surgeries that providers can refer to and hospitals can share externally, he added.

“If you had a larger data repository to pull against, you’re going to hopefully make better decisions because you’ll have the outcomes that could happen. Then you can go back into what sequence of events that you did in the surgery and obtain the ideal outcome,” Browd said.

The goal is to use the data along with generative AI technologies to run simulations and help predict surgical outcomes, Jones said.

For example, if the AI detects that the placement of a screw during spinal surgery deviates from the location in previous successful surgeries, the system could issue a warning, according to Proprio spokesperson Tommy Carls.

Proprio announced in July that it had raised $43 million in Series B funding from investors to help fuel Paradigm’s 2024 commercial launch. Surgeons at the University of Utah Health are helping pilot the technology, Jones said.

“We are just beginning to reveal the potential applications of Proprio’s technology and data,” Jones said in a statement. “This investment arrives at a pivotal moment, as we perform our first-in-human cases and bring Paradigm to patients around the world. Together, these milestones are a testament to the unparalleled capabilities of the Proprio Paradigm and its potential to revolutionize surgery.”

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.