Two UA orthopedic surgeons were among those selected for the Google Glass Explorer program.
Two UA orthopedic surgeons were among those selected for the Google Glass Explorer program.

Orthopedic Surgeons at UA Medical Center Use Google Glass

The surgeons have been using the technology during select procedures since December.
Feb. 27, 2014
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Two fourth-year students at the UA College of Medicine – Phoenix also are experimenting with Google Glass. To read and watch a video about their experience, check out the UANews story "UA Medical Students Work With Google Glass."

A patient's X-ray appears right in the line of sight through Google Glass.
A patient's X-ray appears right in the line of sight through Google Glass.

Dr. Jordan Smith and Dr. Jason Wild of the University of Arizona Department of Orthopaedic Surgery were selected to be part of the Google Glass Explorer Program and have been using the technology on select patients since receiving the glasses in December.

Google awarded 10,000 applicants a pair of hands-free, wearable computers as part of its product beta testing. As members of an academic medical center, Smith and Wild thought this opportunity a natural fit for collecting data for research as well as helping educate the next generation of surgeons.

"By just winking, the glass captures an image of whatever you're looking at during surgery," Wild said. "We've tried using other kinds of cameras, but they require touch control which can be a contamination risk. Glass allows us to capture angles otherwise impossible, to help educate our residents."

Not every orthopedic surgical case necessitates use of the Google Glass. To date, the surgeons have used the glasses during 25 cases – generally the more complex cases.

"The benefit is being able to take a picture of something either rare or hard to describe to residents," Wild said.

It also obviates the need for surgeons to look away from the surgical field at X-rays, as surgeons can simply take a picture of the X-rays with the Google Glass, and have that image superimposed in their direct line of sight. As the technology moves past the explorer phase and further software is developed, surgeons will be able to collaborate or broadcast what they are seeing in the operating room to colleagues, and give students a real-time look at surgical procedures.

Almost complete is the setup of a secure, Wi-Fi network dedicated to the Google Glass at The University of Arizona Medical Center, so surgeons in the operating room can live-stream procedures to colleagues or medical students on the secure network.

"Right now, this is primarily for educational purposes," Wild said. "But we're proud and excited to integrate this cutting-edge technology into daily use."

The team also was recently awarded a grant through the Arizona Telemedicine Program to begin using the Google Glass to obtain surgeon-perspective video of orthopedic surgical procedures for use in instructional videos and training presentations.

The orthopedic surgery department is the first to use the technology routinely at UAMC. Students at UA College of Medicine – Phoenix are using Google Glass to look at how the technology may be helpful for first responders to communicate with trauma physicians, and surgeons with the Southern Arizona Limb Salvage Alliance as well as the trauma center also are trying out the technology.