UK teaching surgeon Dr Shafi Ahmed has livestreamed an operation using Snapchat spectacles, which are sunglasses with two small cameras integrated, allowing the wearer to record what they are seeing.
The routine hernia repair procedure took place at the London Independent Hospital.
Clips from it were posted to Snapchat in real time.
Another consultant pressed record on the glasses during the operation.
The young male patient featured in the video, which has now been posted on YouTube, has chosen to remain anonymous, but is recovering well from the routine operation.
Stepping out of a clinic to speak to the BBC, Dr Ahmed said the spectacles presented a unique opportunity because of the platform they offered for teaching.
“I’m always looking for ways to develop my teaching, especially using wearable technology. When I saw the Snap spectacles, I asked friends in New York to buy some and send them to me immediately.
“We have inequalities in medical education in different countries – I’m looking for ways we can use cutting-edge technology in relatively low-cost gadgets to teach people everywhere,” he said.
The operation was initially viewed by about 200 medical students and trainees. It has now had thousands of views on YouTube.
Snapchat allows users to post only short video clips, meaning Dr Ahmed had to carefully plan how he would record the operation.
“I had to think through the operation and what I’d show in each clip. I wanted to demonstrate techniques and break it down in a structured way.”
With hygiene in mind, Dr Ahmed had an assistant on hand to hit record on the $130 (£100) glasses.
“He is a consultant too, so he knew when to press the button. We had a pre-determined list of clips we wanted to get.”
Dr Ahmed’s colleague then posted the clips to Snapchat. The delay before posting allowed the opportunity to edit, important if anything had gone awry, the doctor explained.
This is not the first time Dr Ahmed has put his work in the spotlight. In April this year he used a 360-degree camera rig to create a virtual reality film of an operation. Some 55,000 people watched it in 180 countries.
He has also operated while wearing Google glasses.
The challenge of the Snap spectacles was the tinted lenses because they are designed to be used as sunglasses.
“We rigorously tested them beforehand to see what the view was like and whether they impinged my view at all. It was a superficial operation and the glasses didn’t restrict me,” said Dr Ahmed.
With plans to use the spectacles for teaching, the lenses are set to be replaced with clear glass by a US company.
“In terms of teaching and learning the spectacles have enormous value. The feedback has already been good – students understand what we are doing here.
“I’m going to do more operations but also clinical skills lessons too, looking at lumps and talking through diagnostics techniques and so on,” Dr Ahmed said.
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