Google Glass may be the answer for retina surgeons who struggle to record Scleral buckling surgery, according to a recent study published in JAMA Ophthalmology.
Researchers Ehsan Rahimy and Sunir Garg from Wills Eye Hospital, Thomas Jefferson University, Philadelphia tested the device to record still images, video clips, and audio during every step of a standard scleral buckling procedure.
The general quality and detail of the recordings were considered sufficiently clear to be useful.
Scleral buckling surgery is traditionally difficult to record because the surgical manoeuvres are performed away from the central axis, while modern surgical microscopes, which are anyway not required for the procedure, are designed to record a fixed, top-down view of a relatively stationary surgeon. Microscope-mounted systems are expensive and work best for procedures such as cataract surgery and vitrectomy; even then, they require constant repositioning to ensure that the salient manoeuvres are recorded. The best option has been the employment of a photographer to capture images over the surgeon’s shoulder, but this obviously provides a slightly different perspective as well as increasing crowding in the room.
One strong factor in Google Glass’ favour is its hands-free voice-activated mode of operation: it can also be switched on by a deliberate tilt of the head. This has obvious applications in the operating room, where sterility must be maintained, and also means that pictures can be taken without interrupting the task at hand or requiring the involvement of another person.
A weakness of Google Glass was the poor quality of some of the photographs and video. The bright operating room lights caused overexposure at times; conversely, dim lighting and an absence of flash was an issue, for example when performing cryotherapy with the room lights off. Another limitation noted was the wide-angle lens and the lack of a zoom function, which the researchers hoped would be incorporated into future versions of Google Glass. Without it, the surgeon had to move his or her head closer to the surgical site to compensate. Adjunct surgical loupes can be fitted for the benefit of the surgeon, but the magnified image cannot be recorded.
However, the main downside to Google Glass was thought to be its short battery life. Separate battery packs are available: without one, only 51 continuous minutes of video footage can be recorded.
Drs Rahimy and Garg are now conducting further proof-of-concept tests to validate Google Glass as a teaching tool for opthalmology.
Google Glass is currently unavailable, production having been stopped in January 2015 following a catalogue of complaints and concerns about this early model.
Google has confirmed that version 2 is under development and has an expected launch date of this year.
While little is known about the new version, which is being developed in secret, it is expected to have a much improved battery life. The researchers hope it will also incorporate zoom, and contrast and brightness enhancement facilities.