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New scanning technology is being used to help doctors operate on back pain patients with greater confidence and precision.

St Vincent’s Private Hospital in Sydney is the first in New South Wales to acquire the new mobile scanner that produces images similar to a CT scan.

Neurosurgeon Timothy Steel says the machine which is used during a spinal fusion is less cumbersome than conventional scanners.

“This imaging modality allows us with better precision than ever before to be able to see exactly what’s underneath the surface in each patient,” Dr Timothy Steel said.

During surgery, doctors use instruments that pass only millimetres away from the nerves and spinal cord.

The 3D-scanning technology also allows for less overall radiation exposure.

“Because what we’re replacing here is three different types of x-rays,” he said.

“Previously to this, each patient had to have a pre-operative CT scan, X-rayed multiple times during the surgery, and then had a post-operative CT scan,” Dr Steel said.

The images are used along with navigation technology, called Brainlab Spine, that acts like a GPS for the surgeon.

It also allows doctors to perform surgery in a minimally invasive way that involves just four centimetre incisions.

Joanne Shurley, 54, from Sydney had the operation to have four screws and two rods placed in her spine to stabilise it.

She had a slipped disc which caused muscle pain as a result of excess movement in her spine.

“It was pressing on the nerve and when I do things it just aggravates it, irritates the nerve,” Mrs Shurley said.

She’s unable to properly look after her three year old grandson or move for very long.

“I get pain in my back and then the pain goes down my leg, it’s just with anything I do for more than ten or 15 minutes,” she said.

She tried hydrotherapy and exercise and was dependent on medication.

Mrs Shurley says the operation is her last resort so that “I can get back to my life, get back to work,” she said.

Originally reported by 9 News on the 20th of October 2017.