iPads in the OR: One surgeon's take

Readers of FierceMobileHealthcare and sister blog Hospital Impact already know how much doctors love Apple's iPad, especially for image sharing. A new study published in the January 2011 issue of the Journal of Surgical Radiology takes that love to the next level: the operating room. 

Georgetown University Hospital orthopedic surgeon Dr. Felasfa Wodajo, who has been using the device during surgeries to view patient images and records, as well as to "review relevant anatomy to the point of care," believes it's only a matter of time before the iPad--or tools like it--becomes as indispensable in the OR as a scalpel. 

"The iPad clearly has the potential to be very useful in the hospital and in the operating theater," Wodajo writes. "Medicine is, by its nature, a mobile occupation and a powerful and flexible computing device will almost certainly play some role in our future everyday practices." 

To keep the iPad sterile, the doctor placed it in a see-through X-ray cassette bag, which according to him, holds the device without any problems. "Once the iPad is inserted into the plastic bag by the circulating nurse, the top can be cut off, folded back and clamped with a hemostat, allowing the iPad to be introduced safely into the sterile field." 

Wodajo writes that the plastic bag and gloves posed no problems as far as taking advantage of the device's touch screen technology. "There was hardly any problem navigating between and inside apps, or with gestures such as pinch and zoom. That was somewhat of a surprise, since, as many people have noticed, using an iPhone touch screen with gloves is difficult at best, and impossible if one is double-gloved." 

The doctor also seemed fascinated with the possibility of future devices that could use onboard gyroscopes to provide augmented realities of internal structures. "This could even conceivably be integrated with views from internal cameras, navigation or robotically controlled surgical instruments," Wodajo writes. 

To learn more:
- read the Journal of Surgical Radiology piece
- take a look at this Healthcare IT News story
- see this cnet Reviews blog post