Live-Tweeted Brain Surgery

Live-Tweeted Brain Surgery Tomorrow Starting at 7:30 am CST

Tomorrow, May 9 at 7:30 am CST, a brain tumor resection will be live-tweeted from Houston’s Memorial Hermann hospital. Surgeon Dong Kim will be performing the brain surgery (removal of a cavernous angioma) on a 21-year-old woman. Tweets will be using the hashtag #MHbrain and the social media event will feature not only simple tweets, but also pictures and video, including live video feed from the operating microscope.

Live-tweeting a surgery is not new to the hospital. Less than three months ago they made news by performing the world’s first live-tweeted open heart surgery. The goal of the live-tweeted surgeries is to educate the general public about these diseases and take them into the OR to see what happens during a surgery.

In the upcoming surgery, neuronavigation will be used to identify the entry point and the precise location of the tumor in the patient’s brain. A craniotomy will be performed to remove a portion of the skull bone. A microscope will then be used to take out the tumor deep in the patient’s right brain. Finally, the team will replace the skull bone and complete the surgery.

The twittercast will be moderated by neurosurgeon Scott Shepard, who will be on-site to respond to questions and comments in real time during the event. Videos will be uploaded to Youtube and photos to Pinterest. Storify is used to put the whole story together afterwards. So sit back and relax while watching live-surgery tweeting tomorrow at 7:30am CST, with first incision at approximately 9 a.m. CST.

Doctors at Houston’s Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital made medical and social media history last month by live-tweeting an open heart surgery for the first time ever.

Dr. Michael Macris performed a double-coronary artery bypass on a 57-year-old patient. Meanwhile, colleague Dr. Paresh Patel provided 140-character updates throughout the procedure, and answered questions submitted by followers of the hospital’s @houstonhospital Twitter account. Dr. Macris also wore a video camera attached to his head. Dr. Patel snapped additional photos, and posted some of the pictures and videos to Twitter. The procedure lasted two and a half hours, and the patient made it through fine.

More than anything, though, the feat is a powerful example of social media’s ability to connect people and shed light on even the most unexpected activities. Its success is a lesson in using creativity and digital innovation to educate mass audiences.

“We’re always becoming more connected as a society,” says Gary Kerr, CEO of the non-profit Memorial Hermann Healthcare System’s Northwest Hospital. “Information can’t be contained anymore, and that’s the most positive thing about the Internet.”

Hospital staff expected a modest amount of attention, but were surprised to see the event blow up online. Natalie Camarata, Memorial Hermann Healthcare System’s digital marketing manager, told Mashable the event delivered an estimated 125 million impressions through Twitter, Storify and media coverage in the weeks following the operation.

Since the surgery, Mashable interviewed several of the people involved in the groundbreaking idea, asking them what it means that social media can be leveraged in new, effective ways. We spoke with Dr. Macris, Dr. Patel, Kerr, Camarata and Beth Sartori, a Memorial Hermann marketing and communications executive. What follows is their inside story.

Pulling Back a Curtain

Memorial Hermann has embraced digital technology for the past several years. It has also hosted more than 50 webinars over the past year, and this week hosted a live social media-broadcasted Q&A about colonoscopies for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. The live-tweeted open-heart surgery was born from that spirit of using technology to educate.

Camarata: We were talking about what we could do for Heart Month. Last year we did something where you could share a glass of red wine with someone online, but we wanted to take it farther. So we came up with the Twitter-cast idea to pull back the curtain on something that happens every day in all of our hospitals.

Sartori: We already had a social media policy in place, but this wasn’t exactly addressed specifically because it had never been done before. We got risk management and hospital executives [to approve] it. It’s a little bit different from just getting a news camera in the operating room. But it didn’t take a lot of arm twisting with Dr. Macris.

Dr. Macris: When Natalie told us all about the Twitter idea, we all thought it would be a pretty straightforward thing, not a big deal in terms of the attention it got. I said, “How many people are we talking about following along?” They said, “Oh, maybe 50 or 100.”

Kerr: Once they told me that had a process in place for the 1% chance something got more complicated in the procedure, I felt comfortable for it to go forward.

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