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Archive December 2019 XX, No. 12

Thinking of Buying... 4K Camera Systems

There's a lot to consider before upgrading your OR imaging systems.

Suraj Soudagar

Suraj Soudagar, MS, MBA, LEED AP


Olympus America
SEEING CLEARLY These 2 photos illustrate just how much better a 4K image (bottom) looks compared to an HD image (top) when the surgeon zooms in on tissue.

You can buy all the 4K surgical monitors you want, but unless you have a 4K surgical camera feeding them images, along with a 4K-capable camera control unit and a networking infrastructure with enough bandwidth, you're not actually seeing real-time 4K video. Numerous vendors offer a variety of end-to-end 4K surgical camera systems. From Arthrex to Zimmer Biomet, check out 11 product snapshots beginning on page 79.

The adoption rate for 4K surgical cameras has been slow, as administrators and executives need a lot of convincing that this upgrade is actually needed, clinically necessary and cost-justifiable. The movement from ancient standard-def to HD was much quicker because it was a quantum leap in terms of clarity, obvious to virtually anyone. The difference between HD and 4K is undeniable theoretically, but is more subtle to the human eye. So the sense of urgency to upgrade isn't quite the same, although we're now seeing 4K gain some traction in ORs. Some things to consider:

  • Do you really need this yet? 4K is objectively superior to HD; it's 4 times the amount of pixels, providing much richer detail. But does your facility actually need 4K? 4K camera systems are much more expensive right now than HD camera systems, at about a 40% to 50% premium — although that will likely change a few years out. Also remember, you're not just buying a 4K camera system; you might also need to spend on upgrades to your network infrastructure and storage capabilities.

It goes beyond cost justification, though. Some surgeons are totally happy with HD; others really can't tell the difference between HD and 4K. Bottom line: 4K is undoubtedly great, and it's absolutely going to be commonplace eventually in ORs of all types. Your task is to determine why, and when, you really need it. If you can justify the cost, by all means, go for it, because the technology is awesome.

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