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Surgery performed at Health Center seen “live” in Brazil

by Carolyn Pennington - April 16, 2007

Having a handful of people looking on as a surgeon performs an operation is nothing unusual, but one recent morning at the Health Center, orthopedic surgeons Drs. Robert Arciero and Augustus Mazzocca had more than 200 people watching as they performed a routine shoulder instability repair.

Thanks to a two-way interactive video feed, medical professionals attending an international orthopedics conference in São Paulo, Brazil were able to see the surgery live and ask questions during the procedure.

The video communications department at the Health Center orchestrated the complex undertaking, which included spending dozens of hours working with a production crew in Brazil.

“Our phone bill will probably be a bit higher this month,” predicts William Hengstenberg, director of video communications.

“The biggest obstacle was the language barrier,” he adds.

“The translator knew the basics, but had a hard time with the technical terms we use in video production, so we had to find simpler ways of describing what we needed.”

The Health Center has gained a national reputation for its video production capabilities, which include video teleconferencing and distance education, as well as live and archived on-demand video web streaming. Hospitals from all over the region use its facilities for video production.

“The organizers of this international conference could have asked any hospital to do this, but they know we can do it and we’ll do a good job,” says Hengstenberg.

Three cameras were strategically placed in an already crowded operating room in order to provide a birds-eye view of the procedure.

A director’s booth, complete with monitors and control panel, was set up along one side of the room.

Along with the usual operating room staff, at least a half dozen production crew members delicately maneuvered around the room trying to avoid the sterile, blue cloth-draped tables.

An artist’s rendering of the proposed Storrs Center. Groundbreaking for the project is expected to take place next year. An artist’s rendering of the proposed Storrs Center. Groundbreaking for the project is expected to take place next year.
Drs. Robert Arciero (foreground) and Augustus Mazzocca perform surgery on a patient at the Health Center. The operation was beamed live to Brazil.
Photo by Janine Gelineau

Arciero and Mazzocca handled the surgery as if it were any other. As they performed the procedure, aimed at repairing an injury that has caused the 50-year-old patient instability and recurring dislocation of his shoulder joint, they offered a step-by-step commentary.

They frequently stopped to answer questions from the observers thousands of miles away. The extra “chatter” in the operating room from the director to the camera operators to “zoom in, pan over, or pull out,” didn’t seem to faze the doctors.

“Both Gus and I are committed to education, whether it’s teaching residents or other surgeons. We’re very open to this kind of event,” says Arciero.

“But the patient always comes first.”

That was evident at one point during the operation when the connection to Brazil was lost for several minutes.

With the best interests of the patient in mind, the medical staff continued the procedure without missing a beat.

When the Brazil contingent came back online, the surgeons did a quick review of what they had done while continuing to move ahead with the procedure.

“The beauty of live surgery is that they see the struggles and the kinks that can occur and see first-hand how we deal with them,” explains Mazzocca.

“This particular shoulder repair was not a straightforward case as we had thought going in. It gave us some unusual challenges, but all the better to learn from.”

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