Surgeon Shafi Ahmed wearing a Google Glass headset

First operation streamed globally using Google Glass

13,000 surgical students around the globe were watching yesterday as a British surgeon removed a tumour from the liver and bowel of a patient in the world’s first operation streamed live using the Google Glass device.

The operation, performed by Shafi Ahmed at the Royal London Hospital, represented a next step in the use of Google’s innovative wearable gadget for medical education purposes after surgeons in Torbay Hospital in Devon used it earlier this month to record an operation to show it to medical students afterwards.

The Royal London Hospital project enabled medical students from 115 countries across the globe not only to witness the procedure first hand, but also to ask the surgeon questions in real time by simply typing them on their computer, smartphone or tablet. The questions then appeared on the small Google Glass display in the upper corner of the surgeon’s field of view and he could answer them using the gadget’s voice transmission system.

“I am delighted that by using Google Glass technology we are transporting our future surgeons directly into the operating theatre,” said Shafi Ahmed. “Using this technology will support us to deliver high-quality and safe care now and in to the future.”

The operation was the world’s first to be broadcast free of charge across the whole world. Previously, countries have only shared operations to students within their boundaries.

In an online questionnaire, 90 per cent of students who watched the live broadcast said that they wanted this type of learning to be part of the curriculum.

Professor Richard Trembath, Vice-Principal for Health, Queen Mary University of London, commented: "We are thrilled to be involved in the first live-streamed surgical procedure taking place in the UK. This is a pioneering piece of work, enabling us to expand our reach around the world. We believe harnessing technology in this way will eventually become a core component to the cutting-edge undergraduate and postgraduate teaching we provide our students and trainees."

The patient, 78-year old Roy Pulfer, from Chadwell St Mary (near Tilbury), agreed to have his operation broadcast around the globe. “I’m happy that it will help educate young people, Pulfer said. “They like using technology so it’s great for them. The staff have been great to me all the way and explained every step of the operation so clearly.”

Professor Norman Williams, President of the Royal College of Surgeons said: “Today we got a glimpse of what technology can do for the future of surgical training. The unique and unparalleled view of an operation means trainee surgeons know better what to expect when they go in to the operating theatre. There is potential for trainee surgeons from around the world to watch and learn from leading surgeons in their fields of expertise.”

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