Hidden Error in Optical Stereotactic Navigation Systems and Strategy to Maximize Accuracy

Marshall T. Holland, Kevin Mansfield, Ann Mitchell, Kim J. Burchiel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Optical neuronavigation has been established as a reliable and effective adjunct to many neurosurgical procedures. Operations such as asleep deep brain stimulation (aDBS) benefit from the potential increase in accuracy that these systems offer. Built into these technologies is a degree of tolerated error that may exceed the presumed accuracy resulting in suboptimal outcomes. Objective: The objective of this study was to identify an underlying source of error in neuronavigation and determine strategies to maximize accuracy. Methods: A Medtronic Stealth system (Stealth Station 7 hardware, S8 software, version 3.1.1) was used to simulate an aDBS procedure with the Medtronic Nexframe system. Multiple configurations and orientations of the Nexframe-Nexprobe system components were examined to determine potential sources of, and to quantify navigational error, in the optical navigation system. Virtual entry point and target variations were recorded and analyzed. Finally, off-plan error was recorded with the AxiEM system and visual observation on a phantom head. Results: The most significant source of error was found to be the orientation of the reference marker plate configurations to the camera system, with the presentation of the markers perpendicular to the camera line of site being the most accurate position. Entry point errors ranged between 0.134 ± 0.048 and 1.271 ± 0.0986 mm in a complex, reproducible pattern dependent on the orientation of the Nexprobe reference plate. Target errors ranged between 0.311 ± 0.094 and 2.159 ± 0.190 mm with a similarly complex, repeatable pattern. Representative configurations were tested for physical error at target with errors ranging from 1.2 mm to 1.4 mm. Throughout data acquisition, no orientation was indicated as outside the acceptable tolerance by the Stealth software. Conclusions: Use of optical neuronavigation is expected to increase in frequency and variety of indications. Successful implementation of this technology depends on understanding the tolerances built into the system. In situations that depend on extremely high precision, surgeons should familiarize themselves with potential sources of error so that systems may be optimized beyond the manufacturer's built-in tolerances. We recommend that surgeons align the navigation reference plate and any optical instrument's reference plate spheres in the plane perpendicular to the line of site of the camera to maximize accuracy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)369-376
Number of pages8
JournalStereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery
Issue number5
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


  • Deep brain stimulation
  • Error
  • Frameless navigation
  • Neuronavigation
  • Stereotactic surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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