In Durham, North Carolina, orthopedic surgeon Dr. Selene Parekh in Duke Medical Center performed surgery on a patient while using a pair of Google Glass (the wearable computer with a built-in camera and monitor) during the process. Parekh instructed his glasses to begin recording via voice command, and began to work on a motorcycle crash victim. He cut through bone, fixed a fractured metatarsal, and put a metal plate on the patient’s foot, while capturing every step in the process with the Google device.
Dr. Parekh has been using the futuristic technology since last year. He was one of the first people to be selected to test the device for $1500. He now uses the gadget to record and archive all of his surgeries at Duke, and plans to utilize it to stream live feeds of his operations to classrooms and hospitals in India to educate orthopedic surgeons there.
Parekh complimented Google Glass for its capability as an educational device. Specifically for its potential to provide individuals in underdeveloped countries the ability to learn things they ordinarily would not have the chance to learn. He said that in India foot and ankle surgery techniques are 40 years behind the United States. He further emphasized that having expert surgeons broadcast their work all over the world to orthopedic surgeons would be “tremendous.”
Parekh is not the only doctor to use Google Glass during surgery. His companions at Duke University, and other medical institutions around the world, are using the wearable computer to stream their operations on the web, hold video consultation with peers as they operate, and float medical images and graphs in their field of view as a reference, enabling safer, efficient, and more precise operations. Software developers have also begun to create programs for Google Glass that appeal to the medical community. One program in particular transforms the Glass projector into a surgical dashboard which displays victim’s vital signs, surgical checklists, and lab results.
Dr. Oliver J. Muensterer asserts that the medical community will welcome this technology, and the practice of using Google Glass during surgery and other medical procedures. “I’m sure we’re going to use this in medicine,” he said. Muensterer recently published the first peer-reviewed study on the utilization of Glass in clinical medicine. He stated that it would not be this generation of the device, but later iterations with better programs and any software issues worked out that would be utilized. Muensterer wore the device daily for a month at Maria Fareri Children’s Hospital in New York. He found that using the filming capabilities of the device rapidly drains the battery, and that the camera does not comfortably adjust when he “hunches” over a patient. He also had to turn off the apparatus’s connection to the internet to prevent patients’ data from being stored in the cloud due to privacy concerns.
Despite the issues highlighted by Muensterer, many doctors are seeking permission to use Google Glass during surgery and other medical practices. According to Nate Gross, a co-founder of the medical technology incubator and recipient of the distribution rights to a select number of units of Google Glass – Rock Health, “demand is high.” He cited that doctors are asking him everyday to allow them to use Glass in their practice. Google has not yet issued a release date for the highly anticipated technology.
By Andres Loubriel