Google Glass continues to make inroads in the operating room

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As wearable devices pick up speed as viable surgical tools, physicians are touting the benefits of Google Glass technology for use in operating room procedures.

A group of surgeons dubbed “Glass Explorers” looked at applications for the wearable device in the operating room, such as integrated imaging, communicating with other surgeons, training new physicians and creating patient safety checklist apps. The surgeons found that using Glass in surgical procedures improved their concentration and allowed them to share first-person perspective with other physicians or trainees, according to a recent article in the Bulletin of the American College of Surgeons.

One of the key ways surgeons implemented Google Glass was to pull up X-ray or MRI images on the device during a procedure, rather than stepping away from the operating table. Dr. Anil Shah, one of the surgeons who participated in the trial, said he used the device in December 2013 to perform a rhinoplasty after a patient broke her nose. Shah consulted an image of the broken nose and a simulated image of what he wanted the nose to look like. “Instead of having to look up from the patient and at the wall, I am able to overlap the before and after image and view them in the upper right-hand corner of my eye,” Shah told theBulletin.

Surgeons also see communication potential in the device. A video camera lens is positioned above the wearer’s right eye, and clinicians can transmit real-time accounts of a procedure from a first-person perspective. A physician could communicate with colleagues in a foreign country or virtually walk students through difficult surgeries.

“The Holy Grail of the OR, when you are teaching something, is to show students what you are doing,” Shah said. “You are looking at a 1 cm opening, so it can be hard to teach that procedure. Allowing medical students to see exactly what I am seeing as I narrate what I am doing during the procedure is a game-changer [for medical education].”

But the technology does not come without its limitations. Patient privacy–in particular, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)–and technological kinks challenge the device’s widespread adoption. Surgeons cite increased battery life, sharper resolution and improved voice-recognition capabilities as critical to Google Glass’s future success.

“In its current format, it is not necessary for surgeons to buy Google Glass, as it is not actively changing the way we are doing surgery–but in two years, it could be,” Shah said.

– read the Bulletin article