From anaesthesia to the recovery room, 70-year-old Monna Cleary's
children followed her surgery - 140 characters or less at a time.
Twitter is opening doors to the sterile confines of operating
rooms, paving the way for families - and anyone else for that
matter - to follow a patient's progress as they go under the knife.
Most of the Cleary family chose to track the developments from a
laptop computer in the hospital's waiting room. But one
daughter-in-law kept tabs from work.
"It's real time information instead of sitting and not knowing
in the waiting room," said Cleary's son Joe, hours after his
mother's surgery Monday at St. Luke's Hospital in Cedar Rapids.
"It made the time go by," said Cleary, who was joined by a
brother, two sisters and a sister-in-law at the hospital. "We all
feel it was a positive experience."
300 Tweets in three hours
His mother, who underwent a hysterectomy and uterine prolapse
surgery, had given her OK for hospital spokeswoman Sarah Corizzo to
post a play-by-play of the operation on Twitter, a social-networking site that lets users send out snippets of information up to 140 characters long using cell phones or
Corizzo sent more than 300 tweets over more than three hours
from a computer just outside the operating room's sterile field.
Nearly 700 people followed them. Eight tweeted questions to Corizzo
about the procedure and a Cleary family member commented on how
fascinating it was to follow the surgery.
The primary goal of the Twitter posts was education, Corizzo
said, but it had the added benefit of keeping the family informed
The idea to follow the surgery on Twitter evolved after a
similar surgery was Webcast several months ago.
"A lot of people would like to go into the operating room and
see what happens but don't want all the visuals and stuff," said
Laura Rainey, another hospital spokeswoman. "This is a more gentle
way to help inform patients and consumers."
Other hospitals tweeting about surgeries too
The Iowa hospital isn't the first to describe a surgery on
Twitter. Others include Children's Medical Centre in Dallas, which
tweeted in May when a father donated a kidney to his son, and Henry
Ford Hospital in Detroit, where officials have tweeted about
several surgeries since January.
Dian Luffman, a spokeswoman with Change: healthcare, a business
that helps clients save money on procedures, said hospitals using
Twitter during surgery is a sign that it's entering the mainstream,
especially among the 20-and-30 somethings.
"I think hospitals are trying to build relationships," she said.
Amanda Gillbret, whose husband and son were involved in the
Dallas kidney transplant, said she appreciated being able to
monitor her husband's surgery at another hospital while she was at
Children's Medical Centre with her son.
"I felt like I was part of my husband's surgery and connected to
what he was going through but was there with my son, too," Gillbret
said. "It gave me a huge peace and it was just comforting knowing
what was happening."
She noted that typically a person can sit for hours in a waiting
room and maybe get two phone calls from the operating room.
"I received updates every two to three minutes," Gillbret said. "It not only helped the family stay in the loop but friends who weren't able to be there."
Tweets sent out every few minutes
While the Detroit hospital has tweeted during several surgeries, neither the Cedar Rapids hospital nor the one in Dallas have immediate plans to do it again.
Officials at both hospitals said they would be open to the
possibility if both the surgeon and patient are willing.
Cleary said she agreed to have her procedure posted on Twitter -
but only after being educated to what tweeting was.
"I'm not much of a computer bug so I didn't know that much about
it," Cleary said. "I didn't know they did that sort of thing."
During her surgery, Corizzo relayed tweets every few minutes.
"Putting numbing medication where the incisions will be. Making
first incision right now," Corizzo tweeted at the beginning of the
Later, Corizzo sent a message that read: "Right now doctor is
cutting across some vessels and ligaments that connect the ovaries to
Then: "Opening up the peritoneum right now," which led to a
tweet questioning what the peritoneum is. Corizzo explained it is
the sac that lines the abdomen.
No restrictions on tweets
The surgeon, Dr Jerry Rozeboom, said he asked Cleary to
participate because she is "very open, conversant and willing to be
part of the education process.
"It was mostly a patient who I thought was open to helping other
people learn about new technology and maybe helping other women in
her situation," Rozeboom said.
Before the surgery, Rozeboom said no restrictions would be
placed on what could be included, but he made it clear that if it
became a distraction or a complication arose, the tweeting would
In her tweets, Corizzo detailed the robotic equipment used for
the surgery and included photos that showed Rozeboom at the control
panel of the equipment and an internal image showing stitches being
put in place.
She also tweeted about the causes and symptoms of the condition
that led to Cleary's surgery. Once the procedure was done, Corizzo sent a final tweet to
"She's doing great. She'll see you soon." – (Sapa, September 2009)
Twitter with brain signals