Camera for the operating room

Started Oct 17, 2011 | Discussions thread
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Postman84 New Member • Posts: 8
Camera for the operating room

Hello all. Let me preface this by saying that I'm rather surprised that these questions haven't shown up more often in here or on the web in general. I'm not a camera / photography enthusiast but I am a technology enthusiast and a longstanding geek and I'll try to keep up with whatever photography nuances you throw at me. I'll start with the nature of the pictures / videos I am looking to take, the constraints of the environment and my personal practice and then open it up to the class or particular camera that you feel is appropriate.

I'm a neurosurgeon and take pictures and videos for patient documentation and teaching purposes. Pictures and videos are for my own files but should be of sufficient resolution to be used for Powerpoint presentations that will be projected on large screens. Some images come from an operating room microscope or endoscope and these have gotten better, over the years, as we've gone to HD. These can usually produce both stills and videos.

Most radiographic images (X-ray / CT / MR / etc) are presented digitally and I can usually export them to a USB stick. Occasionally, a patient presents with outside films where want to shoot an image off a computer screen or off a plain film set up on a light box. If I can get these images, great - tell me how. If not, it's a rare enough occurrence that I won't be crushed If I can't get them. For the purposes of this discussion, assume the "images" I want to acquire are still shots and videos of living people / tissue at relatively short range.

When not in the OR, pictures will be at short range under the fluorescent lights of a patient room (often slightly dim) or clinic room (slightly better). Pictures will need to pick up head shape (and therefore shading of contour), skin tone, and incisions with contrasting hair nearby. Videos will be of patients sitting / standing / walking / talking but either immobile or moving at slow speed.

The more crucial part of this scenario is in the operating room. I do not believe I have ever had a problem with the sterility of my taking pictures in the OR, and let's leave that out of this discussion. My primary purpose is as a surgeon, not as a photographer. The more I have to fiddle around with something, adjust settings or am unsure of the shot so I am forced to take another, the more likely I am to say screw the picture, let's get back to the patient / operation at hand. I need something that's quick and doesn't take time / attention away from the task at hand. Auto-focus, auto-flash, auto-anything is what I'm looking for. I don't need manual settings - I'm not inclined to use them at this point.

Here are the problems I've found with my prior camera / attempts:

1) Overhead directed floodlights are relatively bright in the OR and can be turned away. However, doing so interrupts the flow of the operation more and it can take a little time to readjust them and get back to work. Any ability to get shots in bright light (without changing the lighting environment) would save time.

2) Sometimes the picture of interest is in a hole with seemingly unavoidable shadows. Depending on where we're working and how deep it is, "holes" can range from 1-8 cm wide and about the same depth. If I'm not under the microscope, I'm using a headlight and loupes. The headlight and overhead lights can be turned off for a picture so good low-light ability (or a good flash) will be extremely useful.

3) Accurate color is crucial to differentiate normal from pathological tissue. I have talked to some surgeons that have put a new, clean, white cottonoid (think gauze) in the picture as a reference and then adjusted things in Photoshop later, using that as a reference color for white balancing. I'll do this if I have to but the more accurate the color acquisition of the original shot and the less fiddling I have to do later, the better.

4) When I can, I'll put another pair of sterile gloves and take the shot myself. With my previous camera, I could never get a handle on which settings worked better: the macro setting on / off (I think it said as close as 2-6"), being closer vs farther away and zooming / cropping it later. Ideally, I'd love something something simple enough, automated enough that anyone else in the room (student, OR nurse, tech) who doesn't know my camera can pick it up, turn it on and take the shot. They can get as close as 6-12" but I'll feel better if they could be 2 ft or more.

I don't take pictures on every patient, I don't need or want a dedicated setup such as a tripod / waterproof housing and, frankly, I have neither the time or space. I bring a small bag with me into the operating room or office and I liked having a small camera that could be taken out at a moment's notice.

I'm thinking large LCD (3-4"), built in flash, compact body (micro 4/3 more likely to break?). I'm thinking something like a Nikon Coolpix S9100, maybe Canon Powershot SX20 IS (is a "superzoom" is overkill?).

I don't have a particular brand loyalty. My first was a Nikon Coolpix 9000, then a Canon Powershot Elph SD630?, both given to me as gifts. I loved them but they weren't the right tools for the job. (Someone else liked the Canon well enough, as they took it out of my locker....)

I'm interested in hearing about the type / class / features you think are best, then the particular camera if it fits. Use outside of the hospital (general family stuff) is a bonus, but the OR shots are the most important as they are time sensitive and I want the use of this camera to detract / distract as little as possible from patient care.

I know it's a long post and I greatly appreciate any help offered.


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