UK surgeon uses Google Glass in operating theatre

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It is the first time in the UK that a surgeon has used Google Glass in an operating theatre.

An orthopaedic surgeon at Torbay Hospital in Devon, David Isaac, has become the first surgeon to make use of Google Glass in an operating theatre.

The glasses are voice-activated, with a small display above the user’s eyes and are able to record video and stream the operations through the internet.

Google Glass has since been used by other surgeons within the hospital, for a range of orthopaedic surgical procedures, as well as ear, nose and throat procedures.

This technology has been praised by Torbay Hospital as offering huge potential for medical education, where students who are present in a lecture hall would be able to hear and see the operation from the same viewpoint as the surgeon.

The use of Google Glass allows the user hands-free access to functions such as video calls, email, photos, calendar, voice search, photos and maps. The actual device can be considered a smartphone, video camera and computer in one, with a screen at eye level.

The exciting aspect for medical education is that the surgeon is able to record and share exactly what they see in the theatre. This offers massive potential for conferencing and mentoring. It allows surgeons who are performing a complex or rate procedure to seek advice from experts anywhere in the world whilst in the process of doing the procedure.

The device also offers consultants the opportunity to mentor junior surgeons during surgery, which would extend their hands-on learning experience.

Before surgeons are able to use Google Glass during a procedure, they have to discuss the project with the patient and explain how the recording will be used. It is necessary for them to obtain signed consent from the patient before filming the procedure.

Mr Isaac has stated that the main issues to bear in mind while using this process is patient privacy and confidentiality. He said that these factors are regarded as serious and over the past six months, the system has been in a trial period where these issues could be addressed.

He stated that they have considered the option to stream and store the video to a secure network where access is only available to those who have received consent. He said that they are not able to use Google Glass currently to connect and stream content to the internet, but they are close to starting live streaming to medical students and junior doctors.

Surgeons are in the process of exploring a range of technical challenges. One of these is how to handle about when the camera will be on and when it will be turned off. They also have to determine how they will upload footage of the longer surgical procedures without causing a memory crash.

A Consult anaesthetist and Associate Medical Director for Innovation and Improvement at the hospital, Dr Kerri Jones, has said that the testing of Google Glass is an example of how doctors are looking at technologies in a bid to assess if it can be used to increase the quality of care they offer to people in the region.

Image Credit: Antonio Zugaldia

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