On Tuesday doctors at Houston's Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital successfully completed the first live online coverage of a beating heart surgery in the United States. More specifically, they live-tweeted a double coronary artery bypass.
Would you let your doctor tweet while operating on you? Luckily, that's not a question that the unnamed 57-year-old man undergoing the procedure had to contend with, since one doctor operated while the other tweeted (phew!).
During the surgery, Dr Michael Macris, who has performed over 500 surgeries in the past five years, wore a special helmet camera that captured photos and video of the procedure and sent them to a computer; the content was then posted to YouTube and Twitter, letting users watch the surgery unfold almost as it happened. Macris' colleague Dr Paresh Patel handled tweets and fielded questions from @HoustonHospital's 4,000-plus followers. The surgery lasted two hours and, according to the TM Daily Post, produced over 100 tweets, photos and videos. (You can view some of these in the slideshow below.)
Houston's Local 2 TV station reported that many tweeters asked the same question: Why was Dr Macris wearing a strange vest in the pictures and videos? Turns out, the surgeon had donned a cooling vest to keep himself comfortable while the temperature of the operating room was raised to keep the patient's body temperature from falling too far below a normal level.
More than a dozen live-tweeted surgeries have been performed around the country since at least early 2009. Some believe that tweeting procedures may be a boon for business at the hospitals where they are performed. For example, when Detroit's Henry Ford Health System Hospital live-tweeted the removal of a tumour from a man's kidney in 2009, Bloomberg Businessweek praised the procedure for boosting the hospital's reputation.
"More patients wanted to have their delicate surgeries performed there, and more doctors suddenly wanted to work there," Bloomberg wrote.
Further backing for the tweeting practice came from corporate communication and newsletter company Regan, which offers a webinar called "Your hospital's best PR move: Live-tweet a surgery."
Dr Macris told Local 2 that Tuesday's surgery went "very smoothly. Couldn't ask for a nicer case."
See an archived version of the live-feed at Memorial Hermann's website.
Check out some of the best tweets from the surgery (below).