operationA group of plastic surgeons at Stanford University recently described their experiences using Google Glass and GoPro cameras to capture intra-operative video, highlighting relative strengths & weaknesses as well as plans to incorporate these tools into their training program.

Dr. John Paro, a plastic surgery resident, and Dr. Gordon Lee, assistant professor in Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, described the experience of their division using these two devices in a recent article in the Annals of Plastic Surgery. Basically, they had a group of medical students, residents, and attendings use these two devices to capture intraoperative video. Both devices were worn by the operator, including the GoPro thanks to a customized headband. They then collected the collective insights on relative strengths and weaknesses of the group.

Google Glass

  • The device was comfortable and non-obtrusive
  • While the voice activation was a plus, it only triggers 10-second video capture. Longer capture requires pushing a button on Glass – an obvious limitation when you’re sterile
  • Bright OR lights degrade image quality and Glass had more limited options for adjusting focus/white balance to compensate. Thats on top of the already lower image quality (720p in comparison to GoPro 1080p)
  • Can’t wear surgical loupes
  • Battery lasted about an hour


  • In what I’m sure was a comical discovery, the bulky “wearable” GoPro contraption would frequently bump in to the head of other operating surgeons…less than ideal its the trainee bumping in to the attending
  • More image adjustment options allowed for better image quality even with bright OR lights
  • Can wear surgical loupes
  • Recording has to be initiated with a remote, an app, or by pressing device – a manageable issue just by putting the remote in a sterile sleeve
  • Battery lasted about two hours

Based on their experience, they plan to use Google Glass (or presumably some other smart glasses given the end of the Glass program) to capture snapshots of procedures done by surgical trainees because of its relative comfort and low profile. These videos can be used to assess the progression of surgical trainees and provide feedback. To build a library of high quality training videos, they will use the GoPro instead.

Its worth noting this was done in the context of a clinical trial or with an intent to evaluate some specific outcome, clinical or educational. Rather, it simply describes some of the practical issues discovered by a group of forward thinking clinicians – an experience that can help inform others interested in using these types of tools in medical education.