Google Glass Assists Surgeons and Medical Students at Ohio State University

Google's wearable computer is used for the first time to film surgery.

ByABC News
August 29, 2013, 1:56 PM

Aug. 29, 2013 -- Google Glass has been used to film road trips, fashion shows, and boardwalk arrests. Now, a group of surgeons at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center can add that it can film surgical procedures too.

Christopher Kaeding, an orthopaedic surgeon at OSU, donned the wearable computer for a standard surgical procedure: repairing a torn ACL. When he first put them on, he said that it mildly disrupted his routine. "In surgery, you have a certain feel," he told ABC News. "But I was surprised how quickly I felt comfortable with it."

In this particular procedure, Glass's sole purpose was to allow Kaeding to join a Google Hangout, Google's video conferencing service. Also in the hangout were Robert Magnussen, an assistant professor of orthopaedics at OSU, as well as few of the medical school's second year students.

"I was surprised how quickly I felt comfortable with it."

Ryan Blackwell, one of those students, said that Glass can give students an insider's perspective. "Most students have shadowed a surgeon in the operating room, but you're often stuck on the outside trying to get a glimpse of whatever you can," he said. "But with Glass, you get that [surgical] experience that weren't able to get before."

Magnussen adds that Glass's filming ability can reach more than just a couple of students at a time. For medical educators, he sees it as a way of making the curriculum more involved. "Say we're talking about the anatomy of the knee. Watching an actual knee surgery would liven up that lecture," he said.

Both Blackwell and Magnussen have a few minor quibbles about Glass's video quality and buffering. The location of Glass's camera also isn't ideal for surgery, making some of Kaeding's incisions difficult to see. "[The incisions] are still on the screen, but near the bottom," said Blackwell.

In addition, the short battery life may mean that Glass isn't suited for certain surgical procedures that take a long time. Even though an ACL surgery is pretty quick, Kaeding was prepared just in case. "I had a reserve battery in my pocket," he said. "It should extend [Glass's battery] by about two hours."

Other doctors at OSU have said that Glass could also be used to display a patient's X-rays, as well as both pathology reports and reference materials pertaining to the surgery. Though Glass has potential, it's important to keep the focus on the patient.

"Surgery is always linked to technology," said Charles Limb, an associate professor of head and neck surgery at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute. "But in many surgeries, less is more. Having access to all of these things might not help the patient even an iota."

Kaeding knows that Glass is still a prototype at this point and that there's room for improvement. But there is one thing that even he can tell is a huge benefit this early on. "Once it's on, it's hands free," he said. "You don't have to break sterility so you won't have to regown and reglove."