All back surgery is stressful and worrying for patients. However, these concerns are often multiplied with scoliosis surgery, that brings additional layers of complexity to the operating table. The surgery typically requires the clinical team to painstakingly align curved vertebrae so that they heal into a single, solid bone – and with utmost precision, otherwise the patient could face paralysis. 

Too often, visualizing these complex deformities using grayscale 2D medical scans is incredibly difficult. Not only does the surgeon have to build a picture of the condition in their mind and define a surgical plan, but they also need to use these images to communicate the plan with their team and the patient’s family. 

This complex interpretation and analysis from the surgeon is heavily dependent on years of experience, which can be further compounded in complex cases like this one as the 2D medical sans may not show everything that the surgeon really needs to know the patient’s condition. 

In this case, an 11 year old girl presented with severe scoliosis. Her surgeon had defined a plan using 2D medical scans but due to the curvature of her spine he needed more specific and precise information about the exact relationship of the ribs to the spine, before proceeding -so he requested a 3D model of her full spine, ribs and scapula. Given scoliosis is defined as a three-dimensional deviation in the axis of a person’s spine, it makes sense that the best representation of the deformity is in 3D.

With the new and precise insight from the 3D model, the surgeon was able to define the most appropriate plan. Specifically, the model was extremely valuable in helping the team to visualize and assess her ribs – both in relation to the spine and the metal rods present in the spine. The model was used by the team throughout the procedure –  ensuring always they had a clear, tactile view of all the key structures.