Live surgery is a lot more challenging than people think. My first live surgery was back in 2003, and I was nervous – the pressure was on! So I prepared in my own private operating room in Los Angeles, giving a running commentary – either out loud or in my mind – as I was operating. I recorded all my cases, and went back afterwards to go over them and check that I wasn’t making too many ‘ums’ or ‘ahs’ or stutters. Basically, I practiced. And it made a difference.
I’ve performed live surgeries in over a dozen countries, primarily at the large ophthalmology meetings (such as AAO, ASCRS, ESCRS, and the Asia-Pacific meetings) as part of industry showcases. What many people don’t realize is that the goal of live surgery is to make it look effortless – it should look smooth and choreographed, like watching a ballet dancer. But this can actually be very difficult, as the operating room setup can be very different to the traditional operating room that people are accustomed to seeing. There can be half a dozen extra people, there’ll be multiple cameras and the floor can be covered with cables. You may also have to hold your instruments slightly differently so that the camera angles aren’t obscured. Another big challenge is that you might have two different earpieces whilst operating; in one ear, the director is giving you instructions, and, in the other, the moderator is talking to you and the audience. Additionally, though people mainly want to see you do well, they wouldn’t mind seeing a fumble or two. But if complications arise during live surgery, you just need to stay calm and manage them as you would in your normal operating room.
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