St. Louis Reporter Twitters Live Surgery at Barnes-Jewish
April 28, 2009, ST. LOUIS – As surgeons removed part of a patient’s pituitary gland at Barnes-Jewish Hospital April 27, local St. Louis television reporter Kay Quinn Twittered their progress from the adjoining control room.
The procedure was the first surgery at the hospital to be Twittered.
Twitter is a social media tool in which members can post messages, called “tweets,” in real time which other members can follow. Each post must be no longer than 140 characters long.
(Read transcript of Kay Quinn's Tweets here)
A handful of hospitals across the country have Twittered surgeries to educate medical residents, doctors at other hospitals or members of the public about a particular procedure. The tweets are not written by the surgeons performing the operation, but usually by residents, nurses or other surgeons who are observing nearby.
(See photos here)
The joint effort between Barnes-Jewish and local NBC-affiliate KSDK-TV was part of a series of stories Quinn is doing on Erin Kelley, a 27-year-old St. Louis woman who suffers from Cushing’s disease caused by a pituitary tumor.
In the April 27 surgery, Washington University surgeons Ralph Dacey, MD, chief of neurosurgery, and Richard Chole, MD, chief of otolaryngology, used a minimally invasive approach to remove a small tumor from Kelley’s pituitary gland through her nose.
Doctors hope removal of the tiny tumor will ease or eliminate Kelely’s Cushing’s symptoms, which include weight gain and fatigue.
Quinn had interviewed Kelley prior to surgery and aired a brief video news story prior to her surgery. She plans to air a longer story on Erin and the outcome of her surgery in May.
The surgery took place in the intraoperative MRI neurosurgery operating suite on the second floor of Barnes-Jewish. Quinn sat in the suite’s command center, watching the procedure through a window and on several video monitors.
James Johnston, MD, neurosurgery chief resident, sat next to Quinn explaining the procedure as it progressed and answering Quinn’s questions. Quinn typed “play-by-play” tweets, describing the action and reporting her impressions of the scene.
Her tweets ranged from clinical (“He just took out a piece of bone in the rostrum, which is the outer shell of the sphenoid”), to observational (“All is well in the OR. The room is dark now. Surgeons are tracking their progress on monitors.”) to conversational (“No music in the OR. Dr. Dacey says he doesn't like to listen to much music as he works. OK, sometimes he does.”).
Quinn’s potential audience for the Twitter session included more than 600 persons who subscribe to or “follow” her tweets through Twitter, including Erin’s family, who followed the surgery on their laptops in Barnes-Jewish’s neurosurgery waiting room.
The session was followed and later posted on KSDK’s web site and “Cushing’s and Cancer,” a Cushing’s disease blog.