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A 'Game-Changer': Johns Hopkins Uses Augmented Reality To Perform Major Surgeries

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- A first-of-its-kind augmented reality technology is now being used by neurosurgeons at Johns Hopkins Hospital to treat patients who need major surgeries.

For Kay Bartulis, the last 25 years have been so painful, they hindered her life.

"My lower back pain got really bad," Bartulis said. "I couldn't walk far. I'd have to stop, take a break, walk a bit, stop and take a break."

A few weeks ago, she had back surgery at Johns Hopkins, a transformation she's calling a miracle.

For the very first time, neurosurgeon Dr. Tim Witham used technology on Bartulis that he describes as a game-changer. It's called augmented reality surgery.

"We take a computer image and place that image on the view of the real world," he said.

Dr. Witham used an apparatus through which he could see a full CT scan of Bartulis' body, and with precision, could navigate where the screws in her spine needed to be placed.

"This allows for tremendous accuracy and precision," he said. "It's added confidence for the surgeon that we are placing the instrumentation correctly and accurately."

Previous technologies pulled the doctors' eyes away from the patient to remote screens. This one, however, brings them inside the patient's body.

Bartulis said her results couldn't be better.

"Hopkins is one of the best hospitals in the world, so I felt very comfortable that I was in good hands," she said. "I'll call it a miracle, but he made it happen."

For Bartulis, the surgery means mobility and a normal life. For Witham, the job continues to be about helping people.

"I mean it's humbling too, and I'm very happy for the opportunity," he said.

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