Nowadays, when electronic data handling is ubiquitous, computer techniques have been used increasingly in medicine in recent years. Navigation systems and simulation programs are therefore important elements of surgical working methods. We also talk about “computer-assisted surgery” (CAS).

These methods allow detailed surgical planning and are used in implant dentistry, for instance. Lots of different systems now exist, but they are nearly all based on the same fundamental principle. Surgeons who used to have to rely entirely on their visual judgment are now supported by these systems in their surgical work. An infra-red stereo-camera is used to scan reference points intraoperatively on the patient and on the instruments. Once these points are processed by the computer, the current operating data are displayed for the surgeon on a screen. The images are superimposed with the actual images during the operation, making the patient “transparent” for the surgeon, so to speak.

Analyzing the patient’s data in advance of a planned operation means that the extent of the procedure, risk and benefit can be assessed more clearly. These modern techniques provide surgeons with important information, but also enable patients to get a more accurate idea of the intended outcome.