Quantification of computational geometric congruence in surface-based registration for spinal intra-operative three-dimensional navigation
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BACKGROUND CONTEXT: Computer-assisted navigation (CAN) may guide spinal instrumentation, and requires alignment of patient anatomy to imaging. Iterative closest-point (ICP) algorithms register anatomical and imaging surface datasets, which may fail in the presence of geometric symmetry (congruence), leading to failed registration or inaccurate navigation. Here we computationally quantify geometric congruence in posterior spinal exposures, and identify predictors of potential navigation inaccuracy. METHODS: Midline posterior exposures were performed from C1-S1 in four human cadavers. An optically-based CAN generated surface maps of the posterior elements at each level. Maps were reconstructed to include bilateral hemilamina, or unilateral hemilamina with/without the base of the spinous process. Maps were fitted to symmetrical geometries (cylindrical/spherical/planar) using computational modelling, and the degree of model fit quantified based on the ratio of model inliers to total points. Geometric congruence was subsequently assessed clinically in 11 patients undergoing midline exposures in the cervical/thoracic/lumbar spine for posterior instrumented fusion. RESULTS: In cadaveric testing, increased cylindrical/spherical/planar symmetry was seen in the high-cervical and subaxial cervical spine relative to the thoracolumbar spine (p<0.001). Extension of unilateral exposures to include the ipsilateral base of the spinous process decreased symmetry independent of spinal level (p<0.001). In clinical testing, increased cylindrical/spherical/planar symmetry was seen in the subaxial cervical relative to the thoracolumbar spine (p<0.001), and in the thoracic relative to the lumbar spine (p<0.001). Symmetry in unilateral exposures was decreased by 20% with inclusion of the ipsilateral base of the spinous process. CONCLUSIONS: Geometric congruence is most evident at C1 and the subaxial cervical spine, warranting greater vigilance in navigation accuracy verification. At all levels, inclusion of the base of the spinous process in unilateral registration decreases the likelihood of geometric symmetry and navigation error. This work is important to allow the extension of line-of-sight based registration techniques to minimally-invasive unilateral approaches.
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