Medical Animation: Illustrating A Cervical Spine Fusion Surgery

Medical animation has a variety of functions in creating the perception of medical reality. It's an important part of teaching, learning, and passing medical information.
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The key to comprehending and analyzing sophisticated and complex medical scenarios is to visualize them. Medical animation, as a reality-based visual media, plays a critical role in explaining these medical scenarios. Ismail (2018) in his article Medical Animation In Educational Virtual Environments And Its Effect On Medical Reality Perception affirms this as he explained that “medical animation as a visual simulation is a very effective tool in communicating medical information with more emotional impact, and more compelling, memorable, objective and succinct at a faster rate more dramatically than traditional dry oral or written formats.”

Medical animation has a strong potential to grab attention as it leads users such as medical students, jurors, judges, patients, and medical educators to interpretations that assist their minds in recognizing and translating the visuals.  Sheba et al (2013) in her article published by the American Medical Informatics Association(AMIA) explained that “for medical educators, animation has shown to be more effective for conveying symbolic theories and demonstrating key concepts of devices, procedures, and technology advances by delivering clear visuals in a simple format, with sufficient fidelity to cope competently with real-life critical situations. It is also a key strategy to teach crisis resource management skills.”

Medical animation has various applications including, patient education, forensic reconstruction, medical simulation, cellular and molecular processes, emergency care instruction, pharmaceutical mechanism of action, etc. However, this content provides a succinct explanation and clear images of its use for Cervical Spine Fusion Surgery which is a surgical procedure. 

Cervical Spine Fusion Surgery

A cervical spine fusion (arthrodesis) is a surgery that joins selected bones in the neck (cervical spine). It is done to correct a  herniated cervical disc which means the abnormal opening of the disk-shaped cushions between the bones of the cervical spine.

The surgery has two parts which are the Anterior Cervical Discectomy and Fusion popularly called ACDF. During the Anterior Cervical Discectomy, an opening is made from the anterior, or front, of the cervical spine (neck) and the damaged disc is removed from between two vertebral bones.  In order to stabilize the cervical segment, fusion surgery is performed at the same time as the discectomy procedure. A fusion involved placing bone grafts and/or implants where the disc used to be in order to provide the region more stability and strength.

Click here to see a full still shot demonstrative and animation of a Cervical Spine Fusion Surgery performed by forensic animators at Fox Animated Engineering

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