Step aside, Grey’s Anatomy. A team of surgeons at Royal London hospital is about to show the world what performing surgery is truly like by live-streaming an operation on a cancer patient with the use of virtual reality technology, designed with the purpose of making viewers feel like they’re in the OR as it’s happening. The daring doctor to perform this operation is Shafi Ahmed, a seasoned surgeon who has been pioneering VR technology and its use in surgery, all in attempts to revolutionize healthcare education and innovation.
Ahmed says this sort of technology will “address the global inequalities in surgical health,” allowing surgeons and trainees to connect and learn from the surgery remotely from anywhere in the world. It also will enable morbid curios the ability to watch and experience a surgery in a way anyone who isn’t a medical professional has heretofore been unable to. Viewers worldwide can use their smartphones and a VR headset to stream the surgery live and immerse themselves into the operating room. The operation itself, which will attempt to remove a tumor from the colon of a man in his 70s with cancer, is expected to last two to three hours.
In case any unforeseen complications arise, the broadcast stream of the surgery will have about a minute delay. The entire surgery will be filmed by a number of special cameras that facilitate virtual reality, giving anyone the vantage point of Ahmed himself with a near direct view of the operation from all angles. This sort of viewpoint is more comprehensive and illuminating than the ones most surgical trainees can peep and learn from by looking over the shoulders of the performing surgeon, lending this venture great educational applications. “It showcases virtual reality for what it should be used for – education,” Ahmed said. “This is a game changer, and they can see if anything goes wrong how we react to it.”
This won’t be the first time Ahmed has resected a tumor in a live stream broadcast. In 2014, he removed a tumor from a patient’s liver and bowel utilizing Google Glass, making it the first instance of an operation streamed live online. 13,000 people in more than 100 countries viewed that particular operation online via computers and smartphones, so Ahmed clearly has a built-in fan base to tap into with his upcoming virtual reality broadcasted surgery. Those interested in witnessing Ahmed’s next surgery in all of its virtual glory should carve out a hole in their schedule on April 14, where the surgery will take place at 1pm UTC.