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Lights! Camera! Surgery St. Francis Webcasts let patients see every detail of common procedures..

Dr. Michael Towler, left, and Dr. Thomas Mann Jr. performed a live laparoscopic cholecystectomy or gall bladder removal surgery. Click on the photo to view the rebroadcast
Reality TV has never been like this.

Live surgery broadcast straight from an operating room at St. Francis hospital may not have the crossover appeal of “American Idol,” but it’s as real as television gets.

On Monday, St. Francis will present its second live surgery Web cast, this time of a minimally invasive gall bladder removal called a “laparoscopic cholecystectomy.”

“It is really cool,” said Lee Turza, director of public relations for Bon Secours St. Francis Health System. “You get that sense of, ‘Man. This is what happened to me,’ if you’ve had it. And if you’re going to have one, for example, you can see that minimally invasive is really that. Just a 2-inch incision.”
Not only that, but because the operation is performed by one surgeon while another gives a “play-by-play” description, the Web cast helps patients understand the procedure better than any pamphlet or diagram could.

Two Greenville surgeons with Carolina Surgical Associates will “star” in this surgery.

This time, Dr. Michael Towler will perform the surgery and describe what he’s doing as it happens.

Dr. Thomas C. Mann Jr. will provide commentary and even answer viewers’ questions that are e-mailed during the live surgery broadcast. Mann also will provide information on gall bladder disease, such as symptoms and what patients need to know if they are considering the minimally invasive option for this surgery.

The gall bladder operation is the second of four common surgeries that St. Francis plans to televise this year. In May, orthopedic surgeons performed an ACL — anterior cruciate ligament — reconstruction. The ligament in the knee largely attaches the upper leg to the lower leg and is a common site of sports injuries.

To catch all the action, two cameras are used in the operating room. One is focused on the surgery and the other provides a wide, overall shot.

According to statistics from the National Institutes of Health, nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population will have problems with gallstones in adulthood. About 500,000 laparoscopic cholecystectomy procedures are performed each year.

Towler, the surgeon who will “star” in this operating room procedure, said a “lap chole” is the preferred technique for gall bladder removal. Because it uses small incisions, patients have less pain and quicker recovery.

While traditional gall bladder surgeries often took patients months to recover from, this minimally invasive procedure often allows patients to return to normal activity in a week or so.

While St. Francis is the only hospital in South Carolina with live Web casts of its surgeries, OR-Live has been performing this service since 2000 and has now covered more than 400 live events.

Live audiences vary, according to company officials at slp3d Inc., a Connecticut-based company that also produces videos for medical device manufacturers and pharmaceutical companies.

Live audiences usually average around 1,000 viewers, and then when the surgery is posted on the Internet, the surgeries get about 4,700 hits the first 90 days.
The Web cast is free to anyone who logs on, Turza said.

“So many people want more information about health care,” she said. “They want to know everything about it.”

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