Diffuse reflectance spectroscopy, a potential optical sensing technology for the detection of cortical breaches during spinal screw placement

Akash Swamy, Gustav Burström, Jarich W. Spliethoff, Drazenko Babic, Christian Reich, Joanneke Groen, Erik Edström, Adrian Elmi Terander, John M. Racadio, Jenny Dankelman, Benno H.W. Hendriks

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)
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Safe and accurate placement of screws remains a critical issue in open and minimally invasive spine surgery. We propose to use diffuse reflectance (DR) spectroscopy as a sensing technology at the tip of a surgical instrument to ensure a safe path of the instrument through the cancellous bone of the vertebrae. This approach could potentially reduce the rate of cortical bone breaches, thereby resulting in fewer neural and vascular injuries during spinal fusion surgery. In our study, DR spectra in the wavelength ranges of 400 to 1600 nm were acquired from cancellous and cortical bone from three human cadavers. First, it was investigated whether these spectra can be used to distinguish between the two bone types based on fat, water, and blood content along with photon scattering. Subsequently, the penetration of the bone by an optical probe was simulated using the Monte-Carlo (MC) method, to study if the changes in fat content along the probe path would still enable distinction between the bone types. Finally, the simulation findings were validated via an experimental insertion of an optical screw probe into the vertebra aided by x-ray image guidance. The DR spectra indicate that the amount of fat, blood, and photon scattering is significantly higher in cancellous bone than in cortical bone (p  <  0.01), which allows distinction between the bone types. The MC simulations showed a change in fat content more than 1 mm before the optical probe came in contact with the cortical bone. The experimental insertion of the optical screw probe gave similar results. This study shows that spectral tissue sensing, based on DR spectroscopy at the instrument tip, is a promising technology to identify the transition zone from cancellous to cortical vertebral bone. The technology therefore has the potential to improve the safety and accuracy of spinal screw placement procedures.

Original languageEnglish
Article number017002
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Biomedical Optics
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • bone detection
  • Monte-Carlo
  • optical sensing
  • reflectance spectroscopy
  • screw placement
  • spine surgery


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