Multi-view 3D skin feature recognition and localization for patient tracking in spinal surgery applications

Francesca Manni (Corresponding author), Marco Mamprin, Ronald Holthuizen, Caifeng Shan, Gustav Burström, Adrian Elmi-Terander, Erik Edström, Sveta Zinger, Peter H.N. de With

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Minimally invasive spine surgery is dependent on accurate navigation. Computer-assisted navigation is increasingly used in minimally invasive surgery (MIS), but current solutions require the use of reference markers in the surgical field for both patient and instruments tracking.

To improve reliability and facilitate clinical workflow, this study proposes a new marker-free tracking framework based on skin feature recognition.

Maximally Stable Extremal Regions (MSER) and Speeded Up Robust Feature (SURF) algorithms are applied for skin feature detection. The proposed tracking framework is based on a multi-camera setup for obtaining multi-view acquisitions of the surgical area. Features can then be accurately detected using MSER and SURF and afterward localized by triangulation. The triangulation error is used for assessing the localization quality in 3D.

The framework was tested on a cadaver dataset and in eight clinical cases. The detected features for the entire patient datasets were found to have an overall triangulation error of 0.207 mm for MSER and 0.204 mm for SURF. The localization accuracy was compared to a system with conventional markers, serving as a ground truth. An average accuracy of 0.627 and 0.622 mm was achieved for MSER and SURF, respectively.

This study demonstrates that skin feature localization for patient tracking in a surgical setting is feasible. The technology shows promising results in terms of detected features and localization accuracy. In the future, the framework may be further improved by exploiting extended feature processing using modern optical imaging techniques for clinical applications where patient tracking is crucial.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6
Number of pages15
JournalBioMedical Engineering Online
Publication statusPublished - 7 Jan 2021


  • Patient tracking
  • Spinal surgery
  • Skin tracking
  • Surgical guidance
  • Feature localization


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