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Google Glass makes its way to the operating room (Video)

Wednesday - 7/23/2014, 4:13am  ET

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Plastic surgeon Dr. Rich Castellano injects Botox on a patient while wearing his Google Glass (Courtesy of Youtube).

Sophie Ho, special to wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- In the operating room, plastic surgeon Rich Castellano looks like any other doctor -- scrubs and gloves -- except for the Google Glass that rests on his head.

As he works on his patients -- anything from Botox injections to facelifts -- the Glass on his head livestreams videos and displays pictures, an augmented quasi-medical device for the 21st century doctor.

Dr. Castellano, founder of Imagelift, and who practices in Tampa, Florida is part of a small yet growing number of doctors who use Google Glass in the operating room.

Google Glass, the personal computer that users can wear as a headset, is still in its testing phase and was released to a handful of ‘explorers' earlier this year before becoming more widely available.

The Glass is outfitted like a headset but with the capabilities of a personal computer -- consumers can go on the Internet, take pictures or stream video to the web, for example.

In the operating room, that means that doctors like Castellano could film their operations or pull up photos needed for surgery during consultations while working hands free.

The headset can function based on taps, voice commands, and even winks.

"A lot of what I do is artistry; if you can just be present and look at everything all at once, it really helps quite a bit," Castellano says. "Google Glass is an amazing technology, and you might as well learn how to use it because it's just going to become indispensable."

The use of Glass in surgery has slowly spread into the operating rooms of places such as the University of California San Francisco and Ohio State University.

In his practice, Castellano uses the Glass to record surgeries, video that he can use for teaching lessons or to live stream his operations to colleagues. He also uses it to bring up patients' pictures while he's doing surgeries.

Earlier this year, Castellano livestreamed a surgery to his colleague, plastic surgeon Philip Young of Bellevue, Washington. Castellano also participates in seminars, which he says he can do from his office now through Glass.

"There are many ways to use it, just depending on what you're looking for," he says. "I'm just kind of exploring and experimenting with all of them."

Privacy in the operating room

The big question with using Glass in a medical sense is patient privacy.

Castellano says Glass technology is not compliant with the privacy rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, or HIPAA, which protects sensitive patient information.

Video streamed from the Glass is uploaded to the cloud and can be publicly accessed on YouTube.

Before he operates with Glass, Castellano gets permission from his patients to use the device during surgery and has them sign a release form.

"Certainly there are patients that say they want to keep it private and that's fine," he says. "But I have plenty of patients who say, ‘Oh, you can show it anyone. I don't care. I want to see the video, will you get a copy for me?'"

The device certainly augments the surgery experience, and at least for Castellano, poses interesting opportunities for teaching and patient-doctor interaction in the future.

Technology notwithstanding, the most important thing, Castellano says, is to make sure the patients are comfortable. He'll turn on the Glass once he starts surgery, but doesn't interact with it or do voice commands while he operates.

"It's a little depersonalizing if I'm speaking commands to my Google Glass while I'm right in front of the patient, so I still keep that connection with my patients going," he says.

Video courtesy of the Daily Buzz.

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