Radiographer's bright idea has speeded up ops
It was an idea that came to him in the middle of the night – and it is improving the speed and accuracy of surgery.
The man behind the invention is Gareth Robinson, a senior radiographer at University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust.
He came up with a way of using a laser light and a template overlaid on an X-ray to allow surgeons extra precision.
The technique is being used in spine and hip surgery.
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Mr Robinson, a radiographer for 30 years, said: "I woke up in the middle of the night with the idea and began to develop it.
"At the moment, surgeons use X-ray images to help guide operations, together with their knowledge of the body and their eyesight.
"However, X-rays are two-dimensional and can be difficult to interpret.
"With the overlay and laser light, rather like a protractor, I can calculate more precisely the angles that are needed and where the incision points are. It is like having a bull's-eye view and means accurate measurements can be taken to confirm the length of screws and other implants that will be fitted.
"These can be cross-checked with the surgeon's initial calculations."
As well as being better for patients because surgeons can be more accurate, it is saving time and money.
Fewer, larger X-rays are used to guide the surgical team, which means that patients and staff are exposed to less radiation.
Mr Robinson said: "It was quite scary at first in the operating theatre where you have highly-skilled surgeons and I am telling them where to angle the drill or whatever implement they are using.
"This has become both my hobby and my job."
"I am now looking for a grant so I can have more time to work on this and properly write up what I have done.
"I have submitted information to the British Orthopaedic Conference and we have started to carry out an audit of the system which is called Iota – image overlay template alignment.
"A grant would also give me time to teach so that others can use this technique. It is just me at the moment."
Andrew Furlong, divisional director for planned care at the hospitals trust, said: "We are very proud that such an innovative technique has been invented by one of our members of staff.
"Not only does it improve surgery for patients and surgeons it is cheaper than some of the three-dimensional computerised systems that have just come on to the market.
"It is also far quicker to operate."