SAN FRANCISCO – Perhaps in the not-too-distant future, orthopedic surgeons will allow patients to see their knee replacement or shoulder repair surgery after the fact.
Family members could potentially watch live streaming video of the minimally invasive surgery from an iPad in a waiting room.
"They could literally watch the surgery," said Dr. James Guerra, a Naples orthopedic surgeon who is medical director of Arthrex Inc., a medical device manufacturing company headquartered in Naples. "It's really dynamic technology."
At the annual conference of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons this week in San Francisco, Arthrex unveiled a compact imaging system to make live-video streaming possible.
The conference is the largest orthopedictrade showand education program in the industry, attended by 14,000 orthopedic surgeons from around the world.
Bruce Kennedy, chief technology officer at Arthrex California Technology in Santa Barbara, Calif., said Arthrex began working on the state-of-the art video system a year ago. The system is called Synergy HD3.
"It's basically the fusion of a lot of technologies in one and it allows simple, remote access and sharing of content," Kennedy said.
Surgeons want to share their work with their colleagues, and they want to educate patients about their procedures, he said.
Up to now, several pieces of equipment were needed to capture the endoscopic imagery on video and make it useful, he said. The Synergy system is one compact console, abouty the size of a shoe box.
"If you look at what other companies (do) and how they do it, it requires several pieces of equipment," Kennedy said. "We've got one."
The system enables surgeons to customize documents to transmit an educational post-operative report to patients.
Reinhold Schmieding, president and chief executive officer of Arthrex, said surgeons will have to decide if it is something to share with patients.
"They don't know it exists so it is something the surgeon will educate them about," he said.
At the conference, surgeons listened intently as Kennedy explained the mechanics of the endoscopic visualization, the camera lighting, the high definition resolution, and how they can edit images and instantly transmit them to authorized recipients.
Marc Tetro, an orthopedic surgeon in Buffalo, N.Y., was impressed.
"It's a big leap forward from where things are now," he said, adding that most video recording of endoscopic procedures is done at teaching hospitals.
The cost factor would come into play for group practices such as his own, which has six orthopedic surgeons out of the 25 specialists.
But he's not interested in letting patients look at videos of their procedures post-operatively. That's because of the medical malpractice environment in New York.
"Not a chance," he said. "But it's big in sports medicine to give to patients. It's considered sort of the standard in sports medicine."
Guerra, the Naples orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine, said surgeons can turn the system off and on anytime they want. Problems generally do not occur with patients during minimally invasive surgery, but afterward, he added.
"It would be up to the surgeon's discretion," he said.