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Doctors use GPS-like technology to heal patients

Instead of using radiation to fix broken bones and fractures, doctors are using GPS-like technology to heal patients.

While riding her bike, a woman tried to go around a car and ended up falling down a hill, off her bike, and into the street.

She had shattered her pelvis and needed surgery to repair it. Her doctor used computer-guided navigation to fix the fracture.

"The whole idea of navigation is pretty simple," said Dr. Amir Matityahu, an orthopedic surgeon. "It's creating a virtual space for you to work in so you don't have to use radiation."

Instead of having to take numerous x-rays during surgery, the doctor uses the computer software to plan the procedure. First, sensors are placed on the pelvis. Then, the system turns CT scans into a 3-D model. The computer creates a roadmap, much like a GPS, that tells the surgeons precisely where to place the bone-repairing screws.

"The trajectory has to be almost exact," Dr. Matityahu said. "It has to be between 1 to 2 degrees and 1 to 2 millimeters."

A green alert shows him he's marking the correct spot, right inside the bone. If he places it in the wrong spot, a red alert sounds.

The navigation method means better accuracy, possibly quicker surgery and fewer pieces of hardware. Also, since surgeons don't have to keep taking X-rays, there's less radiation exposure.

Dr. Matityahu said he's one of only about five surgeons in the country using the software for that type of surgery. He said the program was recently FDA approved for the procedure and a few other orthopedic applications.