IU Health Using Google Glass in Surgery

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Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital says it is the first in the state to perform surgery using Google Glass. The Indianapolis facility says physicians used the technology to remove a tumor and reconstruct an abdominal wall.

February 18, 2014

News Release

Indianapolis, Ind. -- A sci-fi way of seeing things offers a new approach for performing lifesaving surgery.

Recently, physicians at Indiana University Health Methodist Hospital became the first in Indiana to perform a surgery using Google Glass, a wearable mini-computer and camera disguised as a pair of futuristic-style eyeglasses. IU Health Methodist Hospital is the first hospital in the United States to use this technology to both remove a tumor and reconstruct an abdominal wall.

Google Glass looks like a pair of eyeglasses without lenses. Users wear a thin, feather-light titanium frame that holds both a small camera and a see-through glass cube above their right eye. The camera can capture both still and moving images while the cube can project a "picture-in-a-picture" screen in the upper right corner of the user's field of vision. The compact device—which responds to voice commands, swiping gestures and taps on its frame—offers multi-tasking and instant, image-sharing capabilities.

"This 'Star Trek'-style technology could really have a major impact on how we practice medicine," said Dr. Paul Szotek, an IU Health trauma surgeon who specializes in hernia repair and abdominal wall reconstruction.

Dr. Szotek and his team used a pair of the wearable devices as they removed a rare type of tumor from the mid-section of Brian Hume, 45, an avid runner, husband and stay-at-home father of two who lives in Avon, Indiana.

During the four-hour procedure, Dr. Szotek and Dr. Jeff Browne, a resident surgeon and partner in the Glass project, used the device’s voice command capabilities to summon the patient’s MRI scans and x-rays into their field of view—all without having to use their hands or take their eyes off the patient. Such functions prove especially useful for medical professionals working in sterile environments.

"The device offers a number of exciting potential applications for patient care," said Dr. Szotek, who is one of about a dozen surgeons in the U.S. that have been chosen to explore healthcare applications of the technology. "I really think this could transform both what we do and how we do it."

Early prototypes of this technology have been used to live-stream point-of-view video for teleconferencing and medical education purposes. Dr. Szotek and his team plan to take advantage of such applications, explore other potential uses and share learnings with medical colleagues at IU Health and at other centers across the country. Dr. Szotek believes other potential medical uses of this technology include:

• Assisting first responders in evaluating and reporting traumatic injuries from the frontlines. "Imagine the time we could save if emergency response personnel could capture live images and videos of serious injuries at the scene of an accident and send them to surgeons at a trauma center who could assess the injuries and interact with the responders in real-time," said Dr. Szotek.

• Combining the technology with tracers that could help surgeons to better distinguish tumors from healthy tissue and allow for a more precise and complete removal. Such applications could revolutionize the field of cancer surgery, according to Dr. Szotek.

IU Health Methodist Hospital has a longstanding history of medical firsts and is home to the largest Level I trauma center in Indiana, which treats approximately 3,600 patients with traumatic injuries each year.

About Indiana University Health

Named among the "Best Hospitals in America" by U.S. News & World Report for 16 consecutive years, Indiana University Health is dedicated to providing a unified standard of preeminent, patient-centered care. A unique partnership with Indiana University School of Medicine—one of the nation’s leading medical schools—gives our highly skilled physicians access to innovative treatments using the latest research and technology. Learn more at iuhealth.org.