Surgeons use Kinect to speed up cancer surgery

Doctors at a Canadian hospital are using the X-box Kinect during cancer surgery, to speed up operations and reduce the risk of contamination.

The Sunnybrook Hospital doctors use the hands-free controller to manipulate images, rather than having to leave the sterile area around the patient to pull them up manually on a computer screen.

This can mean a 20-minute clean-up process before the doctor can return to the patient; often, surgery takes an hour more than necessary as a result. It also meant that the surgeon needed to remember the data each time when returning to the patient.

Now, the doctors can simply use hand gestures to zoom in and out of MRI scans, CT scans and the like or flip through different images.

It was important, they say, to find a series of command gestures that couldn’t be confused with other motions made by the doctors during the normal run of events – and one doesn’t like to think of the consequences otherwise.

Surgical oncologist Calvin Law likens the system to a car’s GPS, in that it helps the surgeon stay oriented as the surgery proceeds. He told the Canadian Press that there are plans to start using it in other parts of the hospital too.

It could save lives, he says, by allowing doctors to perform more operations in a given period of time, and also allows for more accurate surgery. Not bad for a $150 bit of kit.