“10 Gory Surgeries” Reviewed Part 1/2

April 6, 2009 § 5 Comments


WIRED Science has put up an article with “10 Gory Surgical Triumphs on YouTube”. Although their approach is somewhat sensasionalist, the idea to collect surgical videos available on YouTube is good. It has actually inspired me to start a series of posts where I’ll pick a surgical video from YouTube every week and review it.

What better then, than to start with the videos WIRED picked? Are they good videos that communicate something of use, or are they just, as WIRED calls them, “gory”?

Here are my reviews of the first five videos.

1. Below-Knee Amputation

This seems to be an outtake or edit from a longer instructional video. The user who has published it seems to be a private person, so I don’t know who’s made the original video. This edit, however, is both annoying and confusing to watch. The voice over is cut in mid-sentence several places, and it both starts and ends somewhat abruptly with important information missing (Why is this procedure carried out? How was the blood circulation stopped? etc.). It fails to communicate any understanding of the procedure, leaving only the “shock value”.

The original footage is quite good, though. The important anatomical features (bone, fascia) is viewed clearly, and the voice over explains the steps in short informative sentences. The follow-up photos deepens the understanding of the treatment and answers a question the viewers most likely will wonder about – the bulbous stump.

2. Surgery on Beating Heart

This video is made by an Australian surgeon and also uploaded by him, as far as I can see. The video of a coronary artery anastomosis is filmed with a headlight camera, with all the advantages and disadvantages of that. We see the surgeon’s view of the surgical field, but when he moves his head, the camera moves too. In this video it is quite stationary, though. I think the shot is too wide angled to clearly see how he’s making the anastomosis, but a more zoomed-in (tele) lens is difficult with this head-mounted cameras, as the shaking gets more pronounced.

It’s interesting to see how effective the stabiliser (the metal frame holding the incision site in place) seems to be. Operating on a beating heart must be extremely difficult, and this video with its detailed voice over goes a long way to communicate the art.

3. Removing a Fish-Hook from an Eye

This short video has been uploaded by a guy who’s catalogue contains mostly clips from horror movies. It is, however, from an instructional video. A short blip at the start suggests there was a voice over present originally, but it’s lacking here anyway. The video is edited straight forward with captions showing the different steps in the procedure. It’s filmed through an operation microscope, which gives a clear view of what’s being done. I would love to know the role of that “lens glide” thing. Is it to keep the lens in place while the hook is removed?

Clearly put out there for it’s supposed goriness, but it’s interesting anyhow.

4. Sex-Change Operation

This video is some very dubious stuff, if you ask me. It seems to originate from a forum discussing transgender issues. The video contains uncommented footage from a male-to-female sex-change operation, accompanied by dramatic, epic music. The video (or image sequence) shows a grainy wide angled shot of the pelvic area, and it’s almost impossible to see what’s actually being done. The result is might as well be something out of a butcher’s shop to the average viewer. I personally find the combination of music and pictures hard to watch. I don’t know what the publisher is trying to say, but they certainly fail to communicate any understanding of the procedure.

In my opinion it is unethical to use surgical video like this – out of context and highly suggestive.

5. Open-Heart Surgery on Baby Orangutan

This clip is from a documentary about a baby orangutan at San Diego Zoo, that’s having open-heart surgery to fix a congenital heart defect. The video is only part of a series, and doesn’t show much surgery, so I’m kind of puzzled as to why WIRED has included it in their list. The video contains a few points worth noticing, though:

  • The OR nurses naturally has do deal with a lot more body hair than they’re used to, washing and blow-drying the ape before shaving the hair off her chest.
  • The video also states that the operation will last for over 7 hours, 3 hours more than a similar procedure on a human.
  • The surgeons say they handle the case as if they were operating on a child.

Check out part 2 and part 3 to see how it went.

That’s it for now. Look out for the last five videos in Part 2.

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§ 5 Responses to “10 Gory Surgeries” Reviewed Part 1/2

  • Rob says:

    Glad to hear your review on these. A friend send me this list over the weekend and I had similar thoughts. As I am still in the beginning of doing medical video, I was hoping to learn something from these videos. Unfortunately, due to either the original quality or YouTube, most provided little help. And I do think they were put in more for “shock value” than anything else.

    Good reviews though, I look forward to reading the rest!

    And as always, I enjoy reading your blog on a daily basis, keep up the great work!

  • Gary Ashwal says:

    This is a great post. I am so glad you are collecting and reviewing surgeries on YouTube. It is great to get your take on each of them. I am trying to do a similar thing with health care video and medical video I find on YouTube as well each week. Currently, I am not adding my comments but I will soon. I am collecting my 5 top favorites each week from various hospitals, NGOs, medical companies, universities, and others.

  • […] The Sterile Eye Life, death and surgery through a lens « “10 Gory Surgeries” Reviewed Part 1/2 […]

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