Pooling Surgical Knowledge in the IBM Cloud

3 min read

Skåne University Hospital is changing the way pediatric cardiac surgeons learn and perform their jobs.

For pediatric heart surgeons, healthy babies and comforted parents are the driving force behind our work. But we also share a strong desire to keep improving. We often find ourselves asking: could we have done that procedure better? Could we have made a smaller incision, completed the surgery more quickly, done something to facilitate a faster recovery? Even tiny differences can change the lives of our patients—and their families—for the better.

Surgery is not something you can learn from books alone. It requires hands-on training. But every new surgical intern must start from square one, with little-to-no experience observing, assisting with, or performing surgeries.

Now, consider experienced surgeons. On average, my colleagues are exposed to somewhere between 10,000 and 12,000 surgeries during their careers. Their brains hold an incredible amount of surgical expertise, and many of them mentor newer surgeons, passing on their knowledge one surgery at a time.

But then they retire. And all of their expertise retires with them.

Creating and storing surgical videos

Technology offers us a way to preserve and share that experience. Recent advances—including the advent of cloud technology—make exciting new approaches possible. At Skåne University Hospital, we are pioneering a new program that records every pediatric cardiac surgery using seven cameras on a boom suspended above the surgeon’s head.

Making the videos is relatively simple; the hard part is storing and making them accessible to surgeons all over the world. That’s where IBM Cloud technology comes in. After consulting with some top-notch experts at IBM Cloud Advisory Services, we decided to use IBM Cloud Object Storage on the IBM public cloud.

This technology has a number of advantages: it is cost-effective, available globally, reliable, and, most importantly, offers nearly limitless capacity. That’s key, because we expect to have another 20-40 surgical centers join the program in the next five years. Ultimately, we will have a database documenting more than 50,000 procedures.

Building more expertise

Watching our videos will undoubtedly be helpful to new and existing surgeons, but our vision goes beyond that. We plan to use artificial intelligence and machine learning to analyze the surgeries, helping surgeons determine which techniques bring about the best outcomes.

I also envision a future in which we can analyze the videos to develop new ways to guide surgeons directly. For example, pediatric cardiac surgeons sometimes have to create a special patch to close a congenital hole between the chambers in a patient’s heart. We use our eyes and our experience to approximate the patch’s size and shape. It’s a process of trial and error, and we can waste precious intraoperative time trimming a patch until it fits perfectly. One day, computers may be able to project the right size and shape on to the donor tissue, and it will become a matter of cutting along the projected line to create the patch, then sewing it into place. The increased speed and precision would revolutionize surgery.

But before we can do that, we must begin gathering—and retaining—as much surgical information as we possibly can. At Skåne University Hospital, we’re working on that every day, and IBM Cloud Object Storage on IBM public cloud makes it possible.

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