Google Glass is one of many wearable technologies that have been introduced to improve our personal and working lives.  Whilst many digital innovations have come and gone, Google Glass may represent a breed of technology that enhances the surgical environment.
The device itself consists of an optical head-mounted display (OHMD) that can connect to the Internet or a local intranet.  This means that real-time information can be called up to the smartphone-like display that the operator sees.  There is also a high quality camera that has the potential to capture still and video images.  In surgery this has the potential to display relevant up-to-date information to the surgeon that may alter the surgical plan, such as physiological parameters, x-rays, laboratory results or clinic letters.

From a training and appraisal viewpoint the Google Glass could revolutionise or at least enhance current practice.  Whilst the exact resolution of the screen is undisclosed, it is known that it the wearer experiences detail that they would get on a 25 inch screen from 8 foot away.  Medical students and trainees could therefore have relevant anatomy and surgical diagrams displayed whilst assisting their Consultant.   Videoing set-piece operations, such as tendon repairs, from the ‘point-of-view’ of the surgeon could be used in the annual ARCP appraisal, similar to the ‘consultation video’ used by GP trainees in their assessments.  This same ability could be harnessed to stream operations to lecture theatres full of students or for Hospital at Night juniors to their off-site seniors.

With all this potential there are to date only a hand full of publications evaluating Glass in hospitals, and most are small scale.  There does appear to be themes of poor connections, and limited applications.  There are also the potential difficulties of connecting the device to the secure hospital network and the issues around patient confidentiality.

With no insurmountable limitations and huge potential the Glass project may yet see an increasing role as a surgical tool.  The BAPRAS Innovation Group is in early talks with Google and its commercial partners to set up a larger scale evaluation of Glass in Plastic Surgery.


Ryan Kerstein, Innovation Group Lead at BAPRAS    18th March 2015

Leave a Reply