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Google Glass 'could transform the way surgery is performed'

Jan 15th 2014 at 8:20 PM

Google Glass - a wearable computer that resembles a pair of glasses - may be set to transform the medical world, after the device has been used once again during two surgical procedures.

Orthopedic surgeon Dr. Selene Parekh recently used the technology as he conducted foot and ankle surgery during the Indo-US conference in Jaipur, India. And in December last year, the device was worn by plastic surgeon Dr. Anil Shah as he carried out rhinoplasty on a patient who broke her nose.

These surgeons are the latest to use the technology in the operating room. Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported on a surgeon from the US who live-streamed a procedure using Google Glass and an iPad.

Built on a frame that is similar to a standard pair of glasses, Google Glass has an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that sits just above the right eye when worn. It also has a built-in GPS, a microphone and bluetooth.

The device is activated by voice instructions. For example, the user can take pictures by saying "take a picture." It can record and live-stream videos, and even translate the user's voice to a foreign language.
The advantages of Google Glass in surgery

According to the surgeons, many of the gadget's features prove valuable when worn during surgical procedures.

"I immediately thought Google Glass can transform how we perform surgery," says Dr. Shah.

"One immediate advantage is I can constantly keep my eyes on my patient. I don't have to constantly move my head up and down looking at an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or X-ray or a 'before and after' in my viewer."
Google Glass
Surgeons say Google Glass - a wearable computer - could be set to transform the way surgery is performed and taught.
Image credit: Antonio Zugaldia

He continues:

"Another advantage is I can communicate directly from the operating room with a patient's friends or family and tell them what's going on."

Furthermore, Dr. Shah says he believes the device will enable surgeons to document critical moments during a procedure. For example, in surgery, both surgeons and colleagues will be able to see the exact position and size of a patient's tumor.

He notes that this could come in useful when documenting for medico-legal purposes.

In the recent foot and ankle surgery conducted by Dr. Parekh and led by Dr. Ashish Sharma, the procedure was broadcast on the internet using Google Glass - a process that Dr. Sharma says is beneficial when communicating with other doctors.

"Earlier, during surgeries, to show something to another doctor, we had to keep moving and the cameraman had to move as well to take different angles," he explains.

"During this, there are chances of infection. So, in this technology, the image seen by the doctor using Google Glass will be seen by everyone throughout the world."
Potential for better surgical training and education

Dr. Shah, who also teaches surgeons-in-training at the University of Chicago, says the device could potentially transform the way new surgeons are educated:

"We've always used video in our training. But now for the first time I can show students a procedure 'through the surgeon's eye.' They can see exactly what I'm seeing and I can easily narrate as I do the procedure.

[...] This could become the standard tool to help other surgeons learn new procedures."

At present, Google Glass is still in beta testing. As a part of their ongoing trials, the technology giant set up the "Explorer Program," which involved shipping 8,000 of the devices to testers around the world.

From this, Google is planning to add extra features to the device before it is available to the general public - the date of which is still to be confirmed.

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