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The UK’s first live-streamed surgical procedure takes place using Google Glass eyewear

Yesterday, for the first time in the UK, Queen Mary University of London (QMUL) and Barts Health NHS Trust broadcasted online a live surgical procedure using a pair of Google Glass eyewear.

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The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel
The Royal London Hospital, Whitechapel

On Thursday 22 May 2014, a surgical procedure - to remove cancerous tissue from the liver and bowel of a 78 year-old man - was watched live by 13000 surgical students around the world from 115 countries on a computer or mobile phone, who also had the opportunity to put their questions directly to the surgeon.

Students put their questions to Mr Shafi Ahmed by typing them online as they watched the procedure. Their queries then appeared on the bottom left-hand side of the Google Glass worn by the surgeon, who then answered them verbally, transmitted via the online feed.

As the questions appear to the side of the Google Glass there is no risk to the patient, as it doesn't restrict the surgeon's view.

Mr Shafi Ahmed, Colorectal Cancer Lead at Barts Health NHS Trust and Associate Dean at Queen Mary University of London, Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry: “I am delighted that by using Google Glass technology we are transporting our future surgeons directly into the operating theatre. Using this technology will support us to deliver high-quality and safe care now and in to the future.”

Professor Richard Trembath, Vice-Principal for Health, Queen Mary University of London, commented: "We are thrilled to be involved in the first live-streamed surgical procedure taking place in the UK. This is a pioneering piece of work, enabling us to expand our reach around the world. We believe harnessing technology in this way will eventually become a core component to the cutting-edge undergraduate and postgraduate teaching we provide our students and trainees."

The Google Glass gives viewers a surgeon’s-eye view of the procedure from beginning to end, as well as providing insight into how an operating theatre works. Those viewing were also able to observe QMUL’s medical students as they assisted in the procedure.

This world-leading procedure was broadcast to students free of charge from across Europe, Australasia and South America who participated in the live event. Previously, countries have only shared operations to students within their country.

Hemant Kocher, Reader in Liver and Pancreas Surgery at Queen Mary University of London and Consultant Liver Surgeon at Barts Health NHS Trust, removed the cancerous tissue in the patient’s liver which had spread from the bowel. Mr Kocher added: “I am very excited about this new way of teaching. We are now able to show this specialist combined operation of liver and bowel which is only possible in a specialist hospital such as The Royal London due to our expert team working together.”

The patient, Roy Pulfer, 78, agreed to have his operation broadcast around the globe. Roy explained: “I’m happy that it will help educate young people. They like using technology so it’s great for them . The staff have been great to me and explained every step of the operation so clearly.”

Professor Norman Williams, President of the Royal College of Surgeons commented: “Today we got a glimpse of what technology can do for the future of surgical training. The unique and unparalleled view of an operation means trainee surgeons know better what to expect when they go in to the operating theatre. There is potential for trainee surgeons from around the world to watch and learn from leading surgeons in their fields of expertise.”

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