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GoPro Cameras Used in Innovative Microsurgery 3D Video Training Project

Brian Samuels, MD, PhD, and Lacinda Reisland train fellow Adam Quinn, MD, using high-definition personal cameras.
Call it a hack, a workaround, or cutting-edge photography. Brian Samuels, MD, PhD, an associate professor at UAB School of Medicine’s Department of Ophthalmology, has adapted inexpensive video cameras to create 3D training videos for surgeons. This unique innovation may soon be extended to other service lines across UAB Medicine. Portable ophthalmic imaging already is seen as a profound technological development. In addition to recording surgical procedures for teaching and training residents and fellows, tele-ophthalmology networks are growing both in developed and developing countries. However, a critical factor in expanding the clinical use of such high-resolution imaging is in making the process portable, easy to use, and — most significantly — cost-effective. Accordingly, there’s been interest in adapting non-ophthalmic imaging devices that are readily available, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive for ophthalmic use.

The ideal camera system is affordable, user-friendly, and captures the surgeon's view without interrupting the proceedings of the surgery. GoPro Inc. manufactures and markets high-definition personal cameras often used in extreme action video photography. Compact, lightweight GoPro cameras can capture still photos or video in high definition through a wide-angle lens and can be configured to work automatically with minimal intervention or controlled remotely.

Dr. Samuels adapted this existing technology for training surgical residents at UAB Medicine. In this case, the technique has been utilized to create 3D imagery, which provides the benefit of visual depth. The method has been submitted for a UAB Medicine Innovation Award.

“Some of the most innovative ideas don’t create a new product,” Dr. Samuels says. “Instead, they simply apply existing technology in novel ways to generate paradigm shifts. Our Microsurgery 3D Video Training project is this type of innovation. Becoming a successful microsurgeon requires exceptional fine motor skills and the ability to learn a series of coordinated movements in a tight, three-dimensional space, such as inside of the eye.”

Why It’s Better

Currently, most microscopic surgical procedures are recorded from one microscope eyepiece, producing videos in 2D format and therefore lacking critical depth information. Using commercially available GoPro technology and an innovative platform to deliver the 3D videos with stereoscopic depth perception, surgical resident and fellow training can be significantly accelerated. The 3D imagery allows observers to visualize the surgery as if they were the actual surgeon or review their own cases with a faculty member after performing the surgery.

The technique electronically links two GoPro cameras so that video capture by each camera is perfectly synchronized. The cameras are then mounted to either the left or right microscope eyepiece to record simultaneous videos during the surgery. Dr. Samuels has collaborated with Lacinda Riesland, the executive director of IT infrastructure at Callahan Eye Hospital, to use commercially available video editing software to produce a 3D video version of the surgery for later viewing via 3D projector, monitor, television, or headset.

This project is considered innovative because it uses existing technology to create a high-quality teaching tool at low cost. Although there is hardware/software available to produce 3D videos directly from microscopes, implementation is prohibitively expensive and generally specific to the microscope vendor.

Dr. Samuels anticipates that the project will be scalable to ENT and Neurosurgery as those service lines begin operating at UAB Callahan Eye Hospital this year.

“This technology can be disseminated to the main UAB ORs in the future,” Dr. Samuels says. “In addition to resident training, this tool can also be adopted by other service lines to promote more effective education to medical students rotating on the service, new surgical support staff assisting with cases, or clinical colleagues learning new techniques.”

Currently, this project positively impacts the organization in several ways. First and foremost, it accelerates and enhances resident and fellow education. Secondly, as residents and fellows learn more quickly, patient safety is improved by limiting intraoperative complications.