Open Heart Surgery Live on Twitter

open heart surgery

Open heart surgery and social networking appears to be an unlikely combination, but surgeons at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto are satisfied that they accomplished what they set out to do with an open heart surgery procedure tweeted live on Twitter, the social network.  The event was not intended to create history, but that is what happened as Operation Hashtag, as the open heart surgery procedure was called, was tweeted live on Twitter.

Sunnybrook Hospital officials say that the open  heart surgery was tweeted live on Twitter to educate the public about the issues surrounding the health and diseases of the heart. It was no coincidence that it was performed in the month of February, which has been designated as Heart Month, when several organizations, such as the Heart and Stroke Foundation, run information and educational campaigns.

The open heart surgery was performed on a 57-year-old male, and during the 4-hour procedure, updates including images and commentary were tweeted with real-time interaction as Twitter followers posted questions. The event opens several discussions that concerns privacy, at the same time that the public becomes more aware of the issues associated with open heart surgery. It also increases the growing concerns and anticipation that more institutions including hospitals now begin to embrace and use social media to become engaged with the public.

It is not the first time that an open heart surgery was fed live on Twitter. A similar procedure, performed in Texas, was fed to a worldwide audience in 2012. In May of the same year, a brain tumor was removed from a 21-year-old female, while the video feed from the microscope camera was fed live on Twitter.

Researchers and marketers hope that a new era or transformation will take place, as the live feeds represent a new tool that can be used for education as well as for marketing. The procedures will be exposed to the younger audience that make use of the social networks, to make them more aware of the complications that are involved.

Hospital officials fully realized that there are risks and issues involved, such as the privacy of the patient and confidentiality agreement must remain intact. In addition to showing live surgical procedures, hospitals are warming to the idea of using social media what to tell patients what they can expect during stays in the hospital. It is not difficult to imagine the use expanding to many other associated areas, where the patients would love to hear and receive advise from trusted physicians in real time. The immediacy of live interaction may eventually result in saving numerous lives.

Statistics from organizations such as the World Health Organization, and the Heart Associations indicate that more than 17 million people die annually from cardiovascular diseases. It is hoped that the live feeding the surgical procedures will make an impact and when preventative measures are included, they can help to lower the risks.

In most of the cases that involve open heart bypass surgery, the heart beat is arrested, and circulation continues as the heart is connected to a bypass machine. The breastbone is separated for surgeons to gain access to the heart, which may sometimes be left beating in the off-pump artery bypass operation. A vein is removed from the leg and attached as a detour around the blocked artery.

However, although there are benefits to the procedure, there are also several associated risks, such as bleeding and infection or heart rhythm problems which can also lead to a fatality.  When procedures such as open heart surgery are fed live on Twitter, there may be some significant ramifications if mishaps do occur, and efforts must be made to minimize the risks.

Editorial By Dale Davidson


The Globe and Mail

CTV News


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