5 Reasons to Record Your Surgery


You can use high-quality videos and still images for documenting, e-mailing, presenting, duplicating and archiving patient data.

Back in the '80s, when phacoemulsification and VCRs had gee-whiz appeal, cataract surgeon Paul Arnold, MD, FACS, of Springfield, Mo., had an idea: What if he could marry the two and record his surgeries?

Save Your Videos and Stills In Digital Format

Experts say you should store your surgical video in a digital format before taping or burning it. Here's why:

  • You'll have a backup on a hard drive, thumb drive or memory stick.
  • The finished product may only be as good as the medium itself and it's not uncommon for discs to fail on you.
  • Digital images don't degrade over time, but taped or burned files could.
  • Today's mediums for recording may be obsolete someday, but electronic storage lets you preserve the original content of the file.

- Nathan Hall

The setup would be simple enough: Rig a camera to the operating microscope, run a cable to a VCR and press record. The benefits were obvious. He could replay his cases to refine his technique or spot the error of his ways that might have led to a complication. He and his colleagues could swap videotapes and learn from each other. He could play back his cases for documentation purposes. His patients would surely be impressed that their surgeon had such a high-tech streak. Here's a look at the benefits of recording surgery.

1 Refine your techniques. "You can be your own best critic," says Dr. Arnold, chair of the ASCRS Film Festival, where he judges more than 140 clips from surgeons around the world each year. "And if there's a complication, you can go back and review the procedure and see what went wrong."

2 Give patients a souvenir. Surgeons at the Center for Sight in Venice, Fla., record their work primarily as a marketing tool. Every patient leaves with a narrated DVD of his surgery, says chief administrative officer James Dawes, MHA, CMPE. The DVD also contains some marketing information about the surgery center. Patients at Dr. Arnold's clinic can also take home a DVD of their surgery. "Not all, but some, will be interested in the cases, " says Dr. Arnold. "I had one particularly intelligent young man, who had both eyes operated on, who wanted to know what happened." Some systems let you embed your logo, the date and the patient number on the video.

3 Document a complication or landmark a revision surgery. The ENT surgeons at St. John's Clinic: Head & Neck Surgery in Springfield, Mo., use their VCRs to document structures that may be a future complication, says OR manager Lynda Simon, RN. "The physician can access the film and show the patient what happened and what they need to do," she says. "They can also zoom in on a problem or pan out to show more detail." Similarly, if a patient needs follow-up surgery, having a crisp, clear view of the condition can help the surgeon two or three years down the road. Think about ACL tears: It's widely held that about 10 percent of patients with ACL tears will need revision surgery.

4 Kick your patient records up a notch. High-definition digital images can become invaluable parts of patient records. "In the days when tapes were used, they were difficult to manage and sometimes you'd find closets full of VHS cassettes," says an industry expert. "Now, you can decide what you want to export and what's not relevant to the surgery, transfer it to a USB drive or CD, and store it with other patient records such as the MRI."

5 Setup is a snap. It doesn't take a lot to set up a recording system. "It's as simple as connecting a DVD recorder to your operating microscope," says Dr. Arnold. But he uses a high-definition recording system that costs about $10,000, plus about $5,000 more for each HD camera. He can also edit video recordings. "You can record all the cases or some select cases," he says. "Some programs will let you edit, toggle or back up snippets as well as whole cases." If you have a room camera, most systems let you control it from the recording console. Touchscreen controls let you pan, tilt and zoom the camera for a complete perspective of the case. The equipment used to do the recording may also get smaller and easier to use for both surgical microscopes and endoscopes, experts predict.

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