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Archive December 2017 XVIII, No. 12

The Big Picture on Surgical Imaging

Are 4K, 3D and image enhancement options worth the investment?

Kendal Gapinski

Kendal Gapinski, Contributing Editor


surgical video technology SCREEN SHOT Surgical video technology continues to promise more pixels and higher resolution to display impossibly detailed images.

Advances in surgical video are making procedures that once required an overnight stay possible in outpatient settings. Just ask Susan Alexander, MSN, RN, CPAN, CSSM, director of nursing at the Reading Hospital SurgiCenter in Wyomissing, Pa. A few years ago, the center added 4K technology to its ORs. Thanks to their gynecological surgeons' newfound confidence with the system's picture quality, Ms. Alexander says that the group was able to bring a complex procedure like laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomies to the surgical center.

"The amazing picture quality let surgeons visualize so much better that they felt this risk of complications or further surgeries was minimal," says Ms. Alexander.

4K is derived from a 3840 x 2160-pixel matrix, or more than 8 million pixels compared with standard HD's 2 million pixels. The more pixels you have on the screen, the better the image quality. This increased clarity is especially apparent when magnifying images on large — typically 55-inch — monitors, says Daniel D. Eun, MD, chief of robotic surgical services at Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pa. "That's where you can really see the difference between HD and 4K," he says.

Though there's little research clinically proving that 4K makes a difference in surgical outcomes, Ms. Alexander says her surgeons are more than convinced of its benefits, especially since they have expanded their service line due to their increased ability to see intraoperatively. Some of her physicians also say the system lets them complete procedures more quickly and safely because the high level of definition lets them see every anatomical detail.

"The latest 4K systems also offer more than a pretty picture. At least one manufacturer's system has an autofocus feature, which keeps the surgeon's image sharp as he changes location or settings in the surgical field. Additionally, 4K scopes also come in 5 mm size — an improvement on the larger 10 mm options of the past — and most scopes now are fully autoclavable to make reprocessing easier.

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