As we discuss regularly on the Onto Orthopedics blog, technology is continuing to develop at an incredible rate. The benefits that this brings to patients are fantastic, far-reaching and not to be ignored!

One of the latest medical technological advancements is a fiber optic guide wire that is set to improve certain surgical procedures. This new fiber optic guide wire will be used by surgeons during hip fracture operations and in spinal fusion surgeries. It is predicted that it will increase the accuracy at which these operations are performed, thereby increasing the rates of success.

Rates of Relevant Surgeries

Every year in the U.S, hip fracture operations are conducted on approximately 258,000 patients, and spinal fusion surgery is conducted on approximately 350,000 people every year. These are surgeries that are typically experienced more by older people. And, as the population continues to age, so too will the necessity for these operations grow. As such a high rate of these surgeries is required, it goes without saying that the more efficient the surgical process is, the better!

The Surgical Process

During both of the aforementioned surgical procedures, it is necessary to position a very thin wire made of metal through to the affected area in order to properly apply a fixating screw. A common reason for this surgery not being considered successful is that the guide wire breaks or bends during this process. Not only can this cause complications with the end result of the surgery, but it can also extend the recovery time for patients. It can even lead to a revision surgery having to take place, which of course entails a longer period of hospitalization, which of course then involves additional costs and discomfort.

New Technology

This new fiber optic guide wire is set to change all that! The wire will give surgeons an indication of any problems with the wire that they can then adjust before a problem occurs. It is expected that this could completely eradicate the issue of guide wires bending or breaking, meaning a much higher success rate for both of these orthopedic surgeries.

The wire itself uses a laser beam that reflects and therefore allows for the detection of any deflections in the trajectory of the wire. The technology for the wire itself is part of a much bigger market of computer-aided surgical navigation systems, which is estimated to be worth $500 million.

The constant improvements that can be observed in the field of orthopedic surgery are exciting to both the patients and the medical practitioners. As healthcare professionals are better able to do their jobs due to technological advancements, the potential for better patient care and surgical outcomes improves also!

The History of Fiber Optics

Fiber optic technology started to become a concept as far back in history as the 1790’s! At this time, two French brothers by the name of Chappe invented what was known as an Optical Telegraph. This Optical Telegraph was created using a series of lights connected to towers that were controlled by operators. The operators were able to communicate with each other using the lights. This was an idea that was then developed by the British Physicist John Tyndall in 1854. Tyndell was able to demonstrate that light signals could be bent, which set a precedent for how light could be manipulated for communication purposes.

Later on in the 1880’s, William Wheeler designed a system of pipes with a highly reflective coating. This system was used to illuminate houses by sourcing light from an electric lamp in the basement that then directed the light through the homes. A couple of years later in Vienna, two doctors utilised bent glass rods to light body cavities, demonstrating an early use for fiber optic technology in the medical world.

Moving into the 1900’s and the potential for fiber optic technology within communication continued to grow. Several patents for variations on this technology were registered. However, it wasn’t until 1958 that a laser was introduced by Charles Townes and Arthur Schawlow that showed how it was possible to operate within optical and infrared regions. The word laser itself stands for, “light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation”. Throughout the rest of the 1900’s, these lasers were developed and tested, even being adopted by the military for their own testing and use.

The current process for fiber optic cable manufacturing was developed by Bell Laboratories in 1973. Fast forward a few years and telephone companies started using this technology to rebuild their communications infrastructure. By 1996, fiber optic cables were being laid across the Pacific Ocean and the stage was being set for the next generation of communication applications.

In the present day, a wide variety of industries utilise fiber optic technology, such as the military, the medical industry, the data storage industry and those involved with networking and broadcasting.