Surgeons and snowboarders: Consumer video gear makes its way into the operating room

David H. Song, MD, with the GoPro and WiFi remote

David H. Song, MD, with the GoPro and WiFi remote

Consumer video cameras and software have advanced to the point that just about anybody can making professional-looking, high definition videos, whether it’s adding special effects to a home movie or producing a YouTube channel.

But the low cost, flexibility and ease of use of these devices has pushed them toward applications usually reserved for high-end gear too. This year’s Sundance Film Festival featured a film shot entirely on an iPhone 5S, and surgeons here at the University of Chicago Medicine have been using gadgets like the GoPro camera and the Xbox Kinect to record images from the operating room for training and medical education.

In an article published recently in the Journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, David H. Song, MD, Chief of the Section of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, and his colleagues describe how they used a GoPro camera to record surgical procedures. The cameras are popular with skiers, snowboarders, scuba divers and other outdoor athletes because they can mount them on their gear and record their adventures hands-free. Song said the same idea applies perfectly to surgery. Using a head-mounted GoPro, he was able to record high-definition video of several different procedures.

“The application of devices like the GoPro for everything from skydiving to snorkeling has been amazing. We’re just trying to tap into that possibility in surgery,” he said.

Of course, surgeons have been able to record their work for a long time, using equipment specially designed for the operating room. But Song said the cost was prohibitive, and only the biggest institutions could afford it. Even then it was limited to the few operating rooms equipped with the right gear. Now, he says, smaller hospitals and clinics can afford to experiment with video recording.

“You can buy 10 or 20 of them for the price of the high-end video equipment we used to have, so now you can give them to your residents and let your colleagues borrow them,” he said. “It’s been a wonderful tool for us.”

Surgeons who work with Song at UChicago’s Operative Performance Research Institute, a think tank that studies operating room efficiency and safety, have also been using the Kinect, the motion-sensing gadget for the Microsoft Xbox video game console, to track movements of doctors and nurses in the operating room to see if there are ways to improve how they interact during a procedure. It’s just another creative application of a widely available, off-the-shelf device to help these surgeons step up their game.

“We always used to say surgery is a contact sport, and now we’re treating it like it,” said Song. “We’re filming ourselves. We’re working on ergonomics. All the things we wanted to do before, now we’re finally able to do.”

About Matt Wood (429 Articles)
Matt Wood is a senior science writer for the University of Chicago Medicine and editor of the Science Life blog.
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