Open Heart Surgery Live on Twitter For First Time: Groundbreaking, or Dangerous? [FULL TEXT]

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By Dave Smith | February 25, 2012 3:09 AM EST

For the first time in the history of medicine, doctors at Memorial Hermann Northwest Hospital in Houston live-tweeted their actions as they performed a double-coronary artery bypass on a 57-year-old male patient. Tuesday's open-heart surgery was a success, and the tweets gave social media users an inside look -- literally -- on complicated, coronary procedures.

The surgery was performed on Tuesday by Dr. Michael Macris, and was live-tweeted by his colleague, Dr. Paresh Patel, using the hospital's Twitter handle @houstonhospital and the hashtag #MHopenheart.

"Today, we provide an educational inside look into a common double bypass #surgery with live video and pics #MHopenheart," tweeted Dr. Patel.

Despite the limitations of 140 characters per message, Dr. Patel live-tweeted throughout the surgery, answering questions and explaining the steps of the procedure while making sure not to identify the patient.

"For patient privacy we are not disclosing name, other identifiers," tweeted Dr. Patel. "Patient consented to this broadcast of his surgery, for protection his name will not be given."

Dr. Macris reportedly wore a "live helmet camera" to film parts of the procedure and later upload them to YouTube, while Dr. Patel took additional photos with a separate camera.

The procedure lasted about two hours, and Dr. Patel tweeted the entire time, providing updates on the surgery, explanations on Dr. Macris's actions in the surgery, and also enlightening Twitter followers to the duties and roles within the surgery team. The doctors then compiled all of the information from the successful surgery -- every tweet, photo and video -- and uploaded it to Storify, a site that helps people create social stories.

The story was a success. The followers of the @houstonhospital account -- about 5,300 of them -- helped share the tweets with others until it was eventually picked up by various news organizations, including ABC News and the New York Daily News, as the story helped highlight "Heart Month" in February, which is sponsored by the American Heart Association to help raise awareness of heart health and disease. Houston's NBC affiliate KPRC said the world's first live-tweeted open heart surgery reached about 225,000 viewers.

The Storify story from Memorial Hermann Northwest is embedded below. While the information is interesting and enlightening, some parts of it are extremely graphic, and not for the faint of heart. This is a real open heart surgery, after all.

Be warned: During the surgery, surgeons had to cut into the patient's leg to remove the great saphenous vein (GSV) and open his chest with a knife, bovie, and saw. He used the saphenous vein from the leg and sewed it into the place of a diseased blood vessel near the heart and attached it to the aorta.


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