Sony finds medical niche for high-resolution video

November 1, 2000

Sony finds medical niche for high-resolution videoDespite the cost, heart surgeons are soldHidden among the endless departments of music, video, electronics, PlayStations, and other gadgets at Sony lies an unassuming division that is

Sony finds medical niche for high-resolution video

Despite the cost, heart surgeons are sold

Hidden among the endless departments of music, video, electronics, PlayStations, and other gadgets at Sony lies an unassuming division that is beginning to make waves in medicine. While broadcast and professional business media remain Sony’s dominant pursuits, Sony Medical is seeing growing interest in the company’s cameras for surgical applications.

“The medical group at Sony has been around for roughly 15 years, but we are a well-kept secret with a long history of growth and profitability that has shown our ability to adapt well to the market,” said George Santanello, director of marketing for Sony Medical. “Our business is built on cameras, printers, and monitors for medical use, but each year we focus on improving our older technologies while continuing to build new innovations.”

For example, Sony’s high-definition DXC-H10 was recently purchased by cardiac surgeons at New York University Medical Center, marking the first sale of the device for a purely medical application. Sony Medical has had a close affiliation with NYU for some time, providing technologies ranging from visual imaging to operating room devices.

The firm’s most recent contribution to NYU’s medical staff is a small (weighing less than three pounds) video camera that can capture images from locations that were difficult for larger HD cameras to access. The DXC-H10 is being used in the operating room for multiple tasks: enhancing surgical procedures, teaching residents and medical students, and giving physicians in other parts of the world the ability to observe new techniques in real-time. Surgeons can use the camera to zoom into the area being operated on and project the picture on a large screen for reference.

The DXC is also being used in robotic surgery, where, in conjunction with a camera attached to the end of the robotic arm that is used for close-up work, it serves as an overhead camera to help provide a broader view of where the doctor is operating.

Allan Katz, head medical technician at NYU, is responsible for adapting the camera for use in NYU’s operating rooms. For each installation, he works with the surgeons setting up the camera before use in surgery, personalizing such features as voice operation and remote control. The camera is mounted on the operating light with adjustable brackets and is specifically designed to withstand the intense heat from the lamp as well as high-temperature emissions from the tools used during operations. Electronics on top of the lights and pan-tilt controllers allow the surgeons to move the DXC remotely to the most helpful position.

Previously, only standard-definition analog video equipment was used in the operating room. But the DXC’s higher resolution picture quality (1000 lines, double that of a conventional NTSC camera), wider field-of-view, and advanced color and bandwidth capabilities have pushed standard analog into the backseat.

“When first introduced to the camera, NYU staff were impressed with the great detail in tissue definition and color,” Katz said. “The dynamic range is better than that seen with the human eye, which provides doctors a stronger sense of security, so they can more accurately assess minutiae that may once have deceived them, such as a slight discoloration of the skin.”

To further optimize the use of this technology, NYU has established a separate video lab. This allows surgeons more control, viewing options, and aids for minimally invasive procedures and robotic surgery. Procedures can also be viewed in a teaching hospital. In addition, Sony has also just introduced and hopes to install at NYU within the next two months the SEU-TL100, a real-time digital video link unit that connects NYU’s DXC-H10 camera to other teaching sites. The SEU-TL100 takes digital-quality video feeds from the operating room and in real-time with full motion allows other doctors around the world to capture the feed locally.

“This provides excellent picture quality while the operation is being performed,” Santanello said. “The application has endless uses and possibilities in the future for not only cardiac surgery, but all medicine.”

For now, the Sony equipment remains confined to high-end applications and primarily caters to a small segment of doctors who have frequent use for it. But as the technology improves, it will have further impact on the operating room and the needs of surgeons, making it a technology worth the high cost.

“As the products become more common, the cost should come down and we should see a greater use, maybe within two to three years,” Santanello said. “We see this happening because the camera does provide a tremendous advantage to doctors and makes the investment really worth it.”