Google Glass Enters the Operating Theatre: Surgeon becomes first in the UK to use smart specs during an operation

The voice-activated glasses, which feature a tiny display above the wearer's eyes, can record video and live-stream operations via the internet.


David Isaac, an orthopaedic surgeon at Torbay Hospital in Devon, became the first surgeon in the UK to use Google Glass through an operation.

Google Glass has since been used by surgeons across the hospital, including in a variety of orthopaedic procedures and ear, nose and throat operations.

Dr George Brighton, core surgical trainee and app inventor at the hospital, managed to acquire a set of Google Glass last November, before the official launch in the UK.

Torbay Hospital says the technology has 'huge potential' for medical education, with students in a lecture theatre able to see and hear from the surgeon's viewpoint.

Since Mr Isaac (right) carried out an operation wearing Google Glass other surgeons at the hospital have also tried them. The hospital says they could be a fantastic teaching tool as they allow operations to be filmed meaning students can see surgery from the surgeon's perspective

Google Glass enables users to access functions including maps, voice search, video calls and email, calendar and photos hands-free.

'The device itself is effectively a smartphone, head-mounted video camera and computer rolled into one, with an eye-level screen,' Dr Brighton said.

'What's exciting for medical education is that it allows surgeons to record and share their direct view of the surgical field. This gives huge potential for mentoring and conferencing.

'If, for example, you were performing a rare or complex procedure, you could seek the advice of experts anywhere across the globe while operating.

'The device would also enable consultants to mentor junior surgeons through a procedure, extending their hands-on learning.

'Or procedures could be streamed to lecture theatres full of students, giving them virtually the full field of vision the surgeon sees.'

Before using Google Glass in theatre, surgeons talk to their patients about the project and how footage will be used. They must give their signed consent before any filming.

'Two of the key issues we have had to address while using Google Glass in the operating theatre are patient confidentiality and privacy,' Mr Isaac said.

'We take these matters very seriously and have been using the past six months as a trial period to address the issues while still aiming to get the very best from the potential that this technology has to offer within surgical education.

The hospital says the main difficulty it has had in using Google Glass in operations is ensuring patient confidentiality and privacy is maintained

'We have been investigating the ability to stream and store video to a secure network that can only be accessed by those with the relevant consent, and while we can't currently use Google Glass to connect and stream to the internet, we are just about to start live-streaming to junior doctors and medical students within the Trust.'

Surgeons are currently exploring a number of technical challenges, such as how to be explicit about when the camera is filming and when it is switched off.

They are also working out how to upload footage of longer procedures without crashing the computer's memory.

Dr Kerri Jones, consultant anaesthetist and associate medical director for innovation and improvement at the hospital, said: 'The trialling of Google Glass here is a perfect example of how innovative practitioners such as George are being encouraged to look at leading-edge technologies and assess whether we can use them in a way which would add to the quality of care for people in our area.'

Source: Daily Mail



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The Operating Theatre Journal, OTJ, is published monthly and distributed to every hospital operating theatre department in the UK. The distribution includes both the National Health Service and the Private Sector.

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