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Local neurosurgeon develops app

January 19, 2019

Need spine surgery? Odessa neurosurgeon Dr. John Dorman has a surgical navigation app for that.

“I had this idea to use an iPod touch in the OR. It’s a lot cheaper and there’s not the radiation exposure. I capture the image on the camera, then I determine my entry point and trajectory with the image. It uses the built-in gyroscope and tells me the angle to put the screw (in). It’s pretty cool,” Dorman said.

Having learned programming about four years ago, Dorman developed a hobby of writing programs. The application is called the Circinus surgical navigation app, named for a constellation, he said.

“… I have used that in over 100 cases and it just recently got a patent granted, so I’m proud of that. I’m developing a company to market that. The next step is to get FDA approval on it,” Dorman said.

Without approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Dorman said he can’t market Circinus.

“… You can use something without FDA approval, but you can’t market it, so that’s the next (step). I can’t sell it, for instance, but anyone can use it,” Dorman said.

There is a case for the device and it’s put in a plastic bag because it’s not sterile. Dorman said he uses an iPod touch because “you don’t want to be doing this and get a phone call.”

“If you don’t have surgical navigation, you just have to rely on your sense of space and your knowledge of anatomy. … Most of the devices now use interoperative CAT scans and things like that. They’re pretty expensive,” Dorman said.

Currently, he’s just using Circinus for spine surgery, but Dorman said he’s looking into using it with brain surgery, as well.

“We already have something that works pretty well for the brain, but not much for the spine so this is sort of filling that gap,” Dorman said.

“I’d like to really get this app out there and get it to where it’s widely used. I think you see in a trend technology going from larger to smaller. You see it with computers, with hard drives, with all kinds of stuff. We have these big million dollar machines that are soon to be replaced by this,” Dorman said pointing to his smartphone. “So I’m excited to be a part of that. I’m trying to push that forward.”

The hospital recently received a spinal fusion five-star rating from Healthgrades.

Dorman said spinal fusion is when you fuse one or more segments of the spine by putting in hardware.

“Like if you have instability in two of the bones and that instability is causing problems, you can put a stop to it usually by decompressing the nerve roots. Then you put in titanium screws and rods,” Dorman said.

Dorman earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from Baylor University in Waco and his medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. He is required to undergo continuing medical education and attends national meetings to keep up with new developments in his field.

In a previous Odessa American article, Dorman said he decided to become a doctor in the seventh or eighth grade after his grandfather suffered a heart attack.

He chose neurosurgery because of the importance of the nervous system, he said in 2004.

Dorman has been in Odessa since 2004. He stays because of the people.

“And I have a good practice. There’s a lot of opportunity here. There’s a big need for neurosurgery — both brain surgery and spine surgery — so it’s very good in that regard. The people are nice and genuinely thankful for the things that you do to help them,” Dorman added.

When he first arrived in Odessa, there were several neurosurgeons, but three retired, so there were two for a while.

“And then we recruited a third. We have separate practices, but we do cover for each other,” Dorman said.

Since he arrived in West Texas, the population has increased a lot.

“You can see that just driving around, but you also see that increase in trauma,” from oilfield accidents and car wrecks, Dorman said.

As a neurosurgeon, Dorman treats the brain and the spine, which includes the neck, mid-back and low back. For the spine, he performs surgery on herniated discs, tumors of the spine, broken backs or other spine injuries.

“For brain stuff, we see a lot of hemorrhages from high blood pressure. Then there’s car accidents, blood clots and brain tumors. That is probably the bulk of it,” Dorman said.

Dorman and his wife, Melissa, have five children. They enjoy skiing. Asked if he’s keeps in mind what could go wrong hurtling down the slopes, Dorman said he wears a helmet and makes his wife and children wear them, too.

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