Twenty-nine percent of patients who undergo spinal fusion surgery suffer from accidental damage to the spinal cord from pedicle screws, causing various complications, including paralysis. My goal was to make spinal fusions safer by redesigning the tool used to direct placement of the screws – the pedicle probe – to provide real-time feedback on the probe’s location. I developed a probe that detects the difference between the higher density compact bone and lower density spongy bone in vertebrae. The probe warns the user when it contacts the wrong type of bone with a vibration and a light, informing the surgeon to redirect the probe to place screws correctly. My sensor-enabled probe has the potential to significantly reduce the incidence of vertebral breaches during spinal fusion surgery.

Contestants

Nicolas Fedrigo