No, it’s not some obscure scrapbook term used by my dear mom, nor is it anything like driving Miss Daisy. No, “driving the camera” refers to the duty given to medical students if they happen to be lucky enough to “scrub in” on a laparoscopic surgery. Usually this responsibility is only bestowed upon third and fourth- year students on their clinical rotations, but while tagging along on surgery rounds on Monday afternoon, the resident mentioned that the clinical students would be in a special lecture early Tuesday morning, and asked me if I wanted to come and “drive the camera.” Well, the choice was between 4 hours of pathology lecture (my normal second-year Tuesday schedule) or getting to experience my first operation (other than observing), on the right side of the table, so to speak. Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity and spent Monday night studying up on “driving” technique and hoping I wouldn’t kill the poor patient by sticking the camera in some important vessel or structure.
Laparoscopic surgery carries an advantage over traditional “open” surgery in that the incisions are generally much smaller, the surgery is less traumatic to the patient, and the recovery time is shortened and less painful. The case is carried out by inserting a camera and 3-5 operating instruments through “ports” placed in small incisions in the body. The camera’s point of view is projected on the mobile plasma screens throughout the OR, and is relied upon by the 2-3 other surgeons as they maneuver their instruments in the body, through the small ports.
The surgery (a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, or gall bladder removal) went well, and I performed my duty by keeping the operating field in the center of the screen for the two surgeons involved in the case. I watched other cases during the day, but none of them was as exciting as the first one in which I actually took part! I’m definitely looking forward to next year, when “driving” will become second nature.