A Chase Farm Hospital surgeon is pioneering a new way of teaching medical students using smart glasses to live-stream an operation.

Consultant trauma and orthopaedic surgeon Paddy Subramanian says the new technique benefits students because it gives them a first-person view of the surgery, while allowing them to ask questions and receive a response in real time via the smart glasses headset.

Paddy’s first live-streamed operation involved hip replacement surgery carried out at Chase Farm Hospital in December. Ten miles away at the Royal Free Hospital around 20 students watched the operation via MS Teams, mostly on their phones. 

Paddy said: “I think there are so many advantages to teaching surgery in this way. If a student is present in the operating theatre next to me, it is very difficult for them to really see what I can see. Using the smart glasses gives them exactly the same visuals that I have – and many more students can take part rather than just having one or two in the operating theatre with me.

“They can ask questions and I can answer them – on this occasion we did it via a moderator who put the questions to me at an appropriate moment.

“I think it’s the future for teaching medical students. It really lends itself to the next generation training of many procedures. There is nothing stopping you from teaching this to students across the world. The team at the Royal Free London and I would really like to build up a database of educational films so that students can view the procedures at any time.”

Paddy said it’s thanks to the introduction of updated technology and secure streaming services such as MS Teams within the NHS at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that he has been able to use the glasses in a secure way that adheres to all information governance rules.

“Because of Teams, we have a secure way of streaming the footage and allowing the students to view it and ask questions,” he said.

Fifth year medical student Maddy Churcher said the smart glasses gave her a really good view of the operation.

“When I’ve seen operations in real life, you don’t get a very good view,” she said. “There is often more than one surgeon and you can’t get close enough to see clearly what is happening.

“With the smart glasses, you can see the surgery much more clearly, and Mr Subramanian was brilliant at explaining what was happening. Although there were some problems with the live stream being over exposed at times, I think with time these things will be ironed out and it will be a really useful way of teaching students.”

Paddy, the innovation and intelligent automation team and the Chase Farm Hospital team are now hoping to purchase two smart glasses so they can roll this out to more operations in the coming year.

He added: “It lends itself to lots of other procedures so it’s something that other specialties should consider – anything that involves open surgery, would work well.”

Image: Paddy Subramanian, second right and wearing smart glasses, with his surgical team.