News Feature | November 20, 2013

Surgical Assistance Virtually

Source: Health IT Outcomes
Katie Wike

By Katie Wike, contributing writer

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Google Glass and a virtual reality program were recently used by a team from University of Alabama at Birmingham to perform surgery

“Imagine a world where a surgeon can keep their eye on the insides of the patient, but with a quick glance up get all vitals and any research needed to make things run smoother,” said Rob Patey in an article on Health IT Outcomes. With Google Glass, it seems we can let our imaginations run wild. The device has been used as a teaching tool, a way to record operating room procedures, a hands-free avenue for viewing patient data, and now as a way to conduct surgery virtually.

According to Science Daily, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) has performed the first virtual surgery using Google Glass paired with virtual reality technology. UAB combined Glass with VIPAAR, which stands for Virtual Interactive Presence in Augmented Reality, a UAB-developed technology that provides real time, two-way, interactive video conferencing. On September 12, team leader Brent Ponce, M.D., UAB orthopedic surgeon, performed a shoulder replacement surgery in Birmingham while Phani Dantuluri, M.D., watched and interacted from his office in Atlanta.

"It's not unlike the line marking a first down that a television broadcast adds to the screen while televising a football game," said Ponce. "You see the line, although it's not really on the field. Using VIPAAR, a remote surgeon is able to put his or her hands into the surgical field and provide collaboration and assistance.

“It's real time, real life, right there, as opposed to a Skype or video conference call which allows for dialogue back and forth, but is not really interactive," said Ponce. According to UAB News, “Dantuluri could watch Ponce perform the surgery and simultaneously introduce his hands or instruments into Ponce’s view as if they were standing next to each other during the case.”

Essential to this of course was the virtual reality technology. “VIPAAR uses video on mobile devices to allow experts or collaborators to connect in real time and not only see what might need to be fixed, corrected or solved, but also be able to reach in, using tools or just their hands, and demonstrate. It’s like being there, side by side with someone when you might be a thousand miles, or 10 thousand miles away,” said Drew Deaton, CEO of VIPAAR.

“Today, we can’t imagine having a smartphone without the capability to take picture or record a video,” he said. “Five years from now, I can’t imagine anyone trying to solve a visual problem without having a knowledgeable, live expert reach in and help just as if he or she were there in person.”

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