September 03, 2011

Surgery Without Wires

Surgery is messy... and I don't mean in terms of blood and guts...

What I mean are wires, cables, tubing, etc.

Let's take a routine tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy for example...

  1. Electric cord for the operating table
  2. Electric cord for the anesthesia machine
  3. Electric cord for the surgeon's headlight
  4. Light cord from the surgeon's headlight to the lightbox
  5. Breathing circuit tube from the patient to the anesthesia machine
  6. Carbon dioxide outflow tube from the patient to the anesthesia machine
  7. Suction tubing from the surgical table to the vacuum canister
  8. Vacuum cable from the vacuum canister to the wall socket
  9. Electrocautery cable (along with electric cord to power the machine)
  10. Coblation cable (along with electric cord to power the machine)
  11. IV fluids lines from patient to IV bags
  12. EKG lines
  13. Grounding pad cable
  14. All the wires and cables that go with running a computer
  15. etc etc etc
It's an "organized" chaos of cords, tubes, electric wires, etc all emanating away from the patient like a Man-of-Wars jellyfish.

Pictures shown on the internet as well as movies are "staged" and appear to be neat and orderly, but believe me (as someone who has had pictures taken), surgeons and nurses take the time to "tidy" things up before the picture or video is recorded giving a false impression of neatness.

99% of the time, everyone knows where everything is, so it's not a problem. However, when an unanticipated emergency happens, things get confusing and in fact dangerous to not only the patient, but the staff (I recall one incidence of a nurse running to get a surgical tray, tripping on one of the numerous cords mentioned above, falling, and breaking her hand).

When something stops working... we literally have to trace the cord from source to origin to figure out why something stopped working. With all the cords present, this tracing needs to be done by hand and eye (analogous to an entertainment system with all the wires in the back, one would trace out the cords by hand and eye).

IS there a better way???

Of course the operating room staff takes the time to bundle and organize the various cords, but the fact remains that the cords are there.

What about wireless technology to power instruments or relay information?

Well, NPR reported on August 23, a young 22 year-old entrepreneur Meredith Perry, who has invented and patented a way to transmit power over the air without the need for wires using ultrasound. Yup... the same ultrasound used to look at a human fetus in the womb.

Her ingenious idea is to use ultrasound to "vibrate" the air which than vibrates a piezoelectric transducer contained within nearby devices. The vibration of the piezoelectric transducer will than generate an electric current which can be stored in a battery and used to power anything that requires energy.

I acknowledge that it may take time before such wireless power is available to power large surgical devices, but one can always hope!

Read the NPR story here.

Fauquier blog
Fauquier ENT

Dr. Christopher Chang is a private practice otolaryngology, head & neck surgeon specializing in the treatment of problems related to the ear, nose, and throat. Located in Warrenton, VA about 45 minutes west of Washington DC, he also provides inhalant allergy testing/treatment, hearing tests, and dispenses hearing aids.

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