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Editor's Page
Operating in High Def
Dan O'Connor
Publish Date: July 13, 2008

For general surgeon Kory Jones, MD, the moment of truth came during her first high-def laparoscopic cholecystectomy. She glanced up at the flat-panel monitor and was able to see, with amazing clarity and detail, the tiny hole from the fine gauge needle she used to inject local anesthetic at the site where she inserted the trocars.

"I was amazed that I could actually see the needle hole," says Dr. Jones, who's gracing our cover. She paused, then added, "Perfectly."

The needle hole had always been there, of course, but it wasn't visible on the standard-definition monitors she trained on during her residency or used during her first few months at Arlington Memorial Hospital in Arlington, Texas. But everything changed when the hospital opened a new surgical wing in November and equipped all 16 of the ORs there with high-def cameras and monitors. Dr. Jones could hardly believe what she'd been missing.

"I was just amazed at the details," she says. "I saw so many things that I never saw before."

Now that she's had what she calls the "luxury" of operating in a high-def suite, she finds it's difficult to go back to the standard-resolution ORs at one of the other hospitals where she operates. "You didn't realize it before, but now it feels like things are always a little fuzzy," she says.

An important point here. Beyond the incredible picture clarity and definition, Dr. Jones realizes that there's real clinical utility to being able to see the human anatomy with a sharpness and precision that she's never had before. For one, she sees HD as a driver of minimally invasive and outpatient surgery. She sings the familiar "If you can see better, you can operate better" refrain.

"When doing laparoscopic surgery, a clear picture is what it's all about," she says. "Not being able to get a good picture can preclude you from doing lap surgery. When you don't know the difference (between HD and analog), you think you're able to see everything well and have a great picture. But when you see in high def, you see small details that really do add to the picture clarity."

When she ticks off other small and not-so-small benefits to operating in HD — decreased chance of error, increased patient safety and improved case efficiency — you see that it's all about cutting down on time and trouble in the OR.

According to an online poll of our readers, about 41 percent of you have installed HD video equipment in your ORs, and another 19 percent are planning to do so (see "All Hail the High-Def OR" on page 26). "Putting money into the highest quality operating room monitors and cameras is really worth it in the long run," says Dr. Jones. "The details that you see make it easier on your eyes and facilitate better surgery."