When you are learning surgery through observation, it is not just about learning the steps. It is about learning the whole experience of what goes in and around the operative area.
Surgery is a symphony of so many acts in synchrony. The surgeon, the anesthesiologist, the scrub nurse, the imaging assistant, the different devices around and of course, in the centre of everything, the patient.
Such an experience is hardly captured when we witness a video of the closeup of the surgical area.
With this thought in mind, we got the opportunity to create a few 360 learning experiences. The first was about an advanced cardiac procedure by shooting it with a 360 camera Insta Pro. What came out was a great experience which was taken by cardiologists globally. This experience not only took the cardiologists to a cath lab but also gave them graphical information about the procedure steps one after the other.
Creating such educational experience is a highly specialized procedure. It is not as straightforward as just placing the 360 camera and capturing the content. We had some good learning from such projects, which I would like to share here.
- A detailed recce of the operation theatre environment is needed before the actual shoot. The exact camera position needs to be finalized so that it does not interfere with the surgery in progress and at the same time does not compromise on the view of the surgical area.
- The lighting of the OT is important. The ambient light and the overhead lights on the surgical field can conflict with each other to produce a sharp contrast and may disturb your output. The same goes with any bright light from the widows if any.
- A good orientation of the surgeon in charge is very important. The surgeon needs to be mindful of the fact that unlike in a 2D camera shoot, everything in the environment is being captured. Hence, everyone in the operating room must be aware when a capture is in progress. The entire surgical team must be oriented about the shoot. Only the needed personnel should ideally be present in the OR. Else, the viewer may have a disturbed experience due to the crowd in the environment.
- The director of the shoot should be aware of the steps of the surgery and what is important. The director must know when to tell the camera person to start and stop capture. The 360 high resolution cameras like the Insta Pro get heated up and go on a standby after every 10 to 20 minutes of active capture. Hence, it becomes even more important to pace the capture with respect to the important elements of the surgery.
- The surgeon should be given a wireless microphone for live recording of the steps. The surgeon should be guided how to prompt the director about the exact step being performed.
- A separate scripted voice over must be recorded for the final output and it is not advisable to use the live conversation during the shoot as the voice over.
- While editing the stitched output, a low-resolution version of the outputs is to be used as proxy, which are later to be replaced by the expected resolution after the final edit is done.
- While overlaying any graphical elements over the 360 footage, the resolution and position of the graphic elements should be tested well. Else, the attention of the user may be diverted.
- The user experience should be meticulously designed so that the viewer does not miss out on important elements in the surgery due to distractions in the environment.
- The surgical learning experience should not exceed 15 minutes. Else. there is a risk of the VR device being heated up and a break in the experience flow.
Creation of such surgical 360 experiences is gaining momentum. There is a need to give an actual on-field experience to the surgeons, medical students and all the stakeholders who are involved in understanding the latest advances in the surgical solutions, which can be provided with this immersive and portable experience.