On Tuesday last week, a surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital in London began trials of a new device that uses an Xbox Kinect camera to sense body position. Just by waving his arms the surgeon can consult and sift through medical images, such as CT scans or real-time X-rays, while in the middle of an operation.
Maintaining a sterile environment in the operating room is paramount, but scrubbing in and out to scroll through scan images mid-operation can be time-consuming and break a surgeon’s concentration or sense of flow. Depending on the type of surgery, a surgeon will stop and consult medical images anywhere from once an hour to every few minutes.
To avoid leaving the table, many surgeons rely on assistants to manipulate the computer for them, a distracting and sometimes frustrating process.
“Up until now, I’d been calling out across the room to one of our technical assistants, asking them to manipulate the image, rotate one way, rotate the other, pan up, pan down, zoom in, zoom out,” says Tom Carrell, a consultant vascular surgeon at Guy’s and St Thomas’, who led the operation on 8 May to repair an aneurism in a patient’s aorta. With the Kinect, he says, “I had very intuitive control”.