Health IT

Healthcare startup uses Xbox technology to keep ORs sterile, safer

Operating rooms are sterile, most imaging files not so much. If a doctor is conducting a surgery that relies heavily on scans, he has to consult these images from the nonsterile part of an operating room. This means scrubbing in and out constantly, and sometimes taking short cuts that may not maintain the highest levels of sterility required to keep patients infection free.

One startup has found a novel application of Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox gaming system to keep the OR in all its sterile glory. The net result: patients are less likely to be exposed to infection and doctors have a vital medical imagery right in front of them that they can manipulate using gestures.

In the Kinect system, the human body is the controller and gestures are used to play the game. That led GestSure Technologies, a Canadian startup, to think of hacking the system for another purpose. GestSure’s system allows surgeons to manipulate MRI scans and CT scans using gestures from a distance, thanks to a Kinect box and a PC in the operating room.

Gone is the necessity to scrub in and out. Gone is the need to rely on static medical images on a printed paper, said CEO and co-founder Jamie Tremaine, in a phone interview.


“My background is in machine vision, so when Kinect came out, I knew it would be a major game changer,” recalled Tremaine. “Here you have something that has the capabilities of something that would cost $10,000 being sold for $150.”

Tremaine was looking for a way to apply Kinect’s power when a friend who was a resident at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto told his tales of woe of having to support surgeons looking to consult medical images during surgery. That’s when the idea for GestSure germinated.

A few months later, the first system was installed at Sunnybrook, a teaching hospital. The idea took off and Tremaine said that the Discovery Channel ended up doing a documentary.

The positive response convinced Tremaine and two of his co-founders, including the medical resident, that they had created a workable idea.  They filed for a patent thereafter. Currently, Tremaine is taking part in the Kinect Accelerator program that Microsoft organized to reward the most novel hacks of the system. GestSure is one of 11 companies chosen from almost 500 applications.

Tremaine said the Mayo Clinic is also testing the technology in the lab before expanding the test to live surgery.

The technology is mainly used for surgeries that require heavy use of medical imaging — abdominal oncology surgeries, neurosurgeries, orthopedic trauma or urology, Tremaine explained. A video created by Sunnybrook (scroll below) shows how doctors use GestSure’s technology as a “road map” for the procedure to be performed.

Tremaine noted that while the tool is useful for surgeons — they are able to get medical imaging inside the OR in the format that they are used to outside of it — the goal is to boost patient safety.

“You may know that there are an embarrassingly high number of wrong-sided surgeries annually. One of the big reasons for that is because surgeons are used to memorizing imaging data, or when they do have it in the OR, it’s in a different format than they are used to having,” Tremaine said. “We see the main value of the system being more toward the patient’s safety.”

[Photo Credit: Sunnybrook Hospital]

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