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Elgin hospital first in state to Twitter surgery
By Harry Hitzeman | Daily Herald Staff

R.N. Helen Sanjose-Catibog works as Sherman Hospital became the first the hospital in Illinois to Twitter during the two-hour surgery, a hysterectomy performed by Dr. Raja Chatterji and Dr. Humberto Lamoutte.

 

Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Sherman Hospital was using two laptops, two iPhones, and was posting on Twitter as well as Facebook.

 

Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Scene from the state's first Twittered surgery.

 

Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Scene from the state's first Twittered surgery.

 

Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Scene from the state's first Twittered surgery.

 

Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

Scene from the state's first Twittered surgery.

 

Brian Hill | Staff Photographer

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Published: 4/2/2009 4:03 PM

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The social media site, Twitter wants users to answer the simple question "What are you doing?"

Officials at Sherman Hospital in Elgin this morning answered that query nearly 400 times as they tracked a surgical team performing a laparoscopic hysterectomy on a 48-year-old woman.

Doctors Rajah Chatterji and Humberto Lamoutte headed up a six-person, robot-assisted surgery team to remove the uterus from a Lake in the Hills woman.

Two members from Demi & Cooper, a marketing firm working for the hospital, answered questions from the operating room via laptop and posted photos and video on the Internet.

Organizers said Sherman was the first hospital in Illinois to twitter a surgery, providing updates, or "tweets," of 140 characters or less, during the two-hour procedure.

The surgery had 1,071 "followers" and more than 370 updates. Some followers were hospitals and health groups, but many were ordinary folks curious about the surgery.

Seventy-two people asked questions, most of them about the machine called the da Vinci surgical system, which is less invasive than traditional means and allows the patient to be discharged in a day instead of four or five.

"I thought it was pretty exciting that we're going to let the community know we have this (da Vinci) device here," Lamoutte said. "This one went pretty well."

Chatterji spent most of the surgery peering into a large machine as he controlled with his hands a pair of robotic arms that did the cutting and suturing.

Sherman has had the robot for 15 months and has used it for more than 50 surgeries.

"First I said 'What's Twitter? I don't know,' Chatterji said. "But they filled me in, so it's fine."

Michelle Howe, Sherman marketing specialist, said the woman wished to remain anonymous, but agreed to the Twitter experiment because she wanted to help educate people about the surgery.

"She was so excited about doing this," Howe said, adding that the patient's husband and mother also followed the surgery on Twitter.

Marc Bataglia, associate creative director at Demi & Cooper, said most questions were about the da Vinci machine and what advantages it has over traditional surgery.

With the system, doctors can perform the surgery with a series of four to five small incisions instead of one large one. Patients have less blood loss and a shorter recovery time.

"It's minimally invasive. There's numerous benefits to the patient. It's quicker recovery time," said Chris Person, sales representative from Intuitive Surgical, the Sunnyvale, Calif.-based firm that makes the machine.

Howe said Sherman officials likely will "tweet" again, perhaps during a prostate procedure or heart surgery after they move into their new facility in December 2009.

For more information, visit twitter.com/shermanhealth.