Google Glass enters operation theatre in Chennai hospital

For a first in India, a doctor in a Chennai hospital, on Tuesday, successfully operated on two patients wearing Google Glass and live-streamed the entire procedure.

Dr JS Raj Kumar of the Lifeline Hospitals in Chennai performed an upper gastro-intestinal laparoscopy procedure on a 45-year-old man and a hernia repair on a 42-year-old woman, wearing Google Glasses, and live-streamed the entire procedure to medical students seated two blocks away.

Both the anti-reflux laparoscopy to correct a problem with the muscles at the bottom of the oesophagus and the post-bariatric hernia surgery - which reduces a patient's stomach usually with a gastric band - were performed as per usual procedures, according to the doctor. 

"Both patients are doing extremely well. Not a single protocol was skipped. I'm quite excited," Dr Kumar said after the surgery.

"It felt like I was glancing at my rear view mirror while driving. I was focusing on the surgeries and talking to my students at the same time. At one point, I stopped feeling it was an external device," said Dr Rajkumar, chief surgeon of the hospital. 

Shiva Thirumazhusai, founder-CEO of Nasotech that develops applications for Google Glass and who was part of the surgery project, says, "We have the framework and all we need to do is build applications".

"Medical college students around d the world can watch and learn from landmark surgeries with no disturbance to the procedure. Expert surgeons from any part of the world can guide surgeons during difficult surgeries," Dr Kumar had said.

Google Glass is a wearable computer that has a frame similar to traditional eyeglasses. It follows voice commands to take photos and videos that show the viewpoint of the user.

While some doctors say the device could soon become a fixture in operation theatres, some see it as a distraction.

According to Dr Rajkumar, the gadget is yet another step forward in opening the doors of the operation theatre. "People need to know what is happening behind those doors. This is one more gadget towards that end. Students can see the surgical procedures through their seniors' eyes, quite literally. This is a phenomenal surgical tool," he said.

Doctors say the technology could be used to view X-rays, MRI images and other medical information as also to connect with doctors in far flung places.

Its detractors, however, say operation theatres already have gadgets performing the same functions as Google Glass.

Doctors currently use a camera attached to their heads to live-stream surgical procedures to audiences. Moreover, the $1,500 price tag makes Google Glass expensive compared to the video camera, they point out.