DeBakey’s surgical film stand
January 12, 2008 § 7 Comments
It’s a little-known fact that Michael E. DeBakey, world-renowned pioneer of cardiovascular surgery, was also one of the first surgeons to capture his operations on film. I only discovered it recently myself. Having heard the call for DeBakey forceps in the OR a lot, it was interesting to find out he had also invented equipment for filming surgery (photo credit).
In the 1960’s DeBakey started capturing some of his operations on film for educational purposes. This was long before video cameras became commonplace, so he used conventional film cameras. Most likely 16 mm cameras. These are rather big and bulky, with a large film cartridge.
To get a good view of the surgical field, the camera has to be placed as straight above it as possible. In the 60’s remote control was not an option. So the cameraman could not be placed in a corner of the OR with a console and a monitor. He had to be were the camera was. To achieve this DeBakey designed a film stand were the cameraman could lie above the surgeons with a great view of the operating area (photo credit).
Today this design may seem a little strange. With video came the possibility to transfer picture information as electric signals, and the capturing and recording units could be separated. Smaller cameras could be designed and remote controlled. But none the less DeBakey’s film stand appeals to me.
As you can see in the photo, the camera and cameraman is out of the way. The construction no doubt made it more comfortable to film longer operations (but maybe easier to fall asleep). Most important though, is that it put the cameraman as close to the surgery as possible. Making it easier to communicate with the surgeons and focus on the relevant steps in the operation.
A big construction like this would not fit in any ORs I’ve been to, but it would have been interesting to try it. Floating above, looking down. What a great way to work.
Here is an interview with Joe Zwer who used to be one of the cameramen working with DeBakey. Sadly, he can report that the film stand didn’t solve the age old problem of surgeons getting their heads in the way…
One of the three stands that were built is on display at the Micheal E. DeBakey Library and Museum in Houston, Texas.