Ultrasounds and Spine Surgery

Ultrasound technology, involving the use of sound vibrations at a specific frequency, may play a role in helping patients undergoing surgical spine procedures. In fact, testing is already underway to use ultrasound technology during surgery to achieve more accurate placement and insertion of screws and after surgery to improve healing.

Use of Ultrasound During Scoliosis Surgery

For patients requiring surgery for scoliosis, an abnormal curvature of the spine, ultrasound technology may help surgeons achieve greater accuracy with screw placement. It’s essential that the special screws used during surgery (pedicle screws) be placed just right since misalignment could result in nerve damage or permanent spinal cord injuries.

How Ultrasound Technology Works

  • Specific frequencies are used to send back an image of the spine and the area where the screws need to be inserted.
  • In early studies, it’s been proven that ultrasound (at a specific frequency) can penetrate cortical bone (a dense layer of bone) to reflect back from the outer boundary (providing an unobstructed image).
  • Strong reflective signals from the ultrasound produce real-time images that spinal surgeons can then use to achieve better screw placement.

Use of Ultrasound Technology During Recovery

In spinal fusion cases, success of surgery depends on how well the fusion takes during the recovery process. In an effort to improve the odds of a successful fusion, researchers have been testing what’s termed “daily low-intensity pulsed ultrasound therapy” to accelerate the healing process.

Test subjects, in this case adult male dogs, had low-intensity ultrasound applied to the fusion site for 20 minutes each day during recovery. When compared to a control group that did not receive ultrasound treatments, the group receiving the treatments achieved better healing at the fusion site.

The Future of Spinal Care

Although results seem promising, more research is necessary before low-intensity pulsed ultrasound therapy becomes widely available. If you have other questions about spine care or surgery, don’t hesitate to contact The Spine Institute Center for Spinal Restoration at (310) 828-7757 and request a complimentary, no-obligation consultation with Medical Director and spinal specialist, Dr. Hyun Bae.