KU Leuven: Medical students follow surgery live through the eyes of a surgeon thanks to smart camera glasses

Following a heart bypass operation from the surgeon’s perspective was a first for a number of master students of medicine at KU Leuven. Using smart glasses – camera glasses – the operation was live streamed to the students at home.

Under normal circumstances, students of the Cardiovascular Diseases course are given the opportunity to physically attend a surgical procedure in the operating theater, but under the current circumstances, teacher and cardiac surgeon Wouter Oosterlinck had to look for an alternative.


Using high-tech camera glasses, Wouter Oosterlinck succeeded in livestreaming heart bypass surgery to the students at home. | © UZ Leuven – Dries Rengle
Using high-tech camera glasses , so-called smart glasses , Professor Oosterlinck succeeded in livestreaming heart bypass surgery to the students at home. The smart glasses – developed by technology company Rods & Cones in collaboration with Medtronic – feature two cameras and a microphone. This makes it possible to follow an operation from a distance, yet down to the smallest detail, from the surgeon’s perspective.

“Of course we cannot capture the real atmosphere of the operating theater via live stream, that remains something magical, but in the field of education this is a very valuable alternative,” says Professor Wouter Oosterlinck. “Students can follow the procedure from needle to thread: in the first phase we remove a blood vessel from the chest with the help of a robot, then we use that blood vessel to bridge the narrowed coronary artery. Thanks to the technology of smart glasses , the students can not only follow the entire procedure, they are also in contact with me and can ask specific questions. ”

The students are also enthusiastic about the initiative, says Charlotte Verlinde. “We now have a much better idea of the theoretical knowledge that we gained in an earlier phase. That way, that knowledge will also stick better. The technology is very suitable for this type of surgery, which is done through tiny cuts. Even if we could have been in the operating theater, we would not have been able to follow the procedure in such detail. Of course you miss the physical experience, but in this case it was a great alternative. ”

Important experience
“Many medical students long to gain clinical experience, but due to the corona crisis, it is not possible to organize all educational activities in the hospital,” says Professor Oosterlinck. “Of course we cannot afford for their training to be slower or less optimal. On the contrary, this crisis once again emphasizes the need for well-trained doctors and quality nursing. That is why I thought it was very important to be able to provide the students with an OR experience. “

Wouter Oosterlinck: “I thought it was very important to be able to provide the students with an operating theater experience, despite the corona crisis.” | © UZ Leuven – Dries Rengle

“The operation really gave us something to look forward to,” says student Sadaf Davoudi. “When you study at home day in, day out, it is difficult to stay focused. An initiative like this gives energy and motivation to persevere. This technology can also be an accessible way to get in touch with different disciplines. In any case, it has sparked my interest in cardiac surgery. ”

Educational added value
“We will certainly look into whether and how we can use these smart glasses more widely,” says Wouter Oosterlinck. “The technology cannot only be used to visualize operations. For example, students can follow a consultation remotely. In this way we also reduce the impact on patients. ”

“The corona crisis forces us to be inventive and then aids such as these smart glasses can be part of the solution,” adds Dean Paul Herijgers (Faculty of Medicine). “That does not mean that we want to digitize every form of contact or communication, but such digital tools do give us new opportunities to improve the training.”

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