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The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: University of Buffalo Neurosurgery Department, Buffalo, NY

Wireless Education

The Buzz: Installation Spotlight: University of Buffalo Neurosurgery Department, Buffalo, NY

Apr 1, 2008 12:00 PM,
By Jessaca Gutierrez

Wireless Education

Voice and data solutions provider IP Logic recently extended its portfolio of services. Last year, the company—with the help of its own broadcast engineer on staff—designed and installed streaming video and wireless audio systems in the University of Buffalo Neurosurgery Department’s two neurosurgery suites, marking a first installation of this kind for the company and the hospital.

When IP Logic, a voice and data solutions provider based in Albany, N.Y., initially contracted with the University of Buffalo’s (UB) Neurosurgery Department, the installation was intended to be a standard digital phone system. But conversations between the sales staff at IP Logic and UB surgeons led IP Logic project manager Peter Grosskopf to offer his expertise as a broadcast engineer. That conversation eventually led to a much bigger, more cutting-edge installation, and it marked a first for both the company and the teaching hospital: permanent video-enabled neurosurgery suites.

Prior to this project, the hospital — a leading facility for stroke and neurological care services — had contracted with a local broadcasting company that provided satellite uplink trucks to stream the footage of surgeries.

“Every year, the Toshiba Stroke Research Center has a convention, and all the neurosurgeons gather in a city — usually Washington, D.C. — and they perform surgery on camera for a convention of doctors via the satellite uplink to these conventions,” Grosskopf says. “They’ll do an hour worth of surgery in Buffalo, and then they’ll send it to Paris, or they’ll do a surgery there and send it to Beijing. And all the while, attending surgeons sit around and watch these surgeries on the big screen, and then they have a panel of doctors asking questions to the doctor performing the surgery. It’s a highly coordinated effort — similar to doing sports broadcast from all these locations.”

Being able to bring these video productions inhouse, the hospital realized, would not only allow the department to streamline the process, but it would provide the department access to the technology to stream this footage on an as-needed basis and use it as a teaching tool for their students, other doctors, and EMTs in the area — not just during a yearly event.

The entire installation was rolled out over several months, and it included the two neurosurgery suites, a viewing room — where up to 15 students at time could watch surgeries — and an auditorium where live footage could be broadcast to a larger crowd. Footage from the cameras — a IQinvision IQeye700 series network camera and a Sony SCN-Z25N PTZ camera — and images from the magnetic resonant angiography machines (used to generate images of the arteries so the surgeon can evaluate them as they work) in the suites are fed to Axis Communication IP capture servers and processed through Milestone XProtect Enterprise software. The images and footage are then multiplexed and broadcast via Extron Electronics MAV Plus 4848 AV series composite video router and MAV Plus 1616 A audio router. The broadcast is controlled with a Crestron AV2 control system, which can then be manipulated from a PC web browser in the hospital’s director of technical operations’ office. Authorized doctors within the hospital’s LAN can access the images and footage through a web browser. The output, as determined by the AV2 controller, can also be encoded for global streaming capabilities.

Although the need for a permanent global video-broadcasting solution was driving this installation, surgeons also wanted to be able to communicate with students in the viewing room and other doctors and students watching the proceedings on a 10ft. Da-Lite Screen Company 120″×160″ Tensioned Contour Electrol screen in the hospital’s auditorium, projected from a Hitachi CP-X505 projector equipped with a Hitachi UL-604 long-throw lens.

Because of the magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) machines in the suites, there was the potential for the large amount of RF interference emitted from these machines to block the audio signal, cutting off communication between the surgeons and those in the viewing room and the auditorium.

Based on his successful experience using Sennheiser EW 500 series wireless mics as a broadcast engineer for the NHL and the NFL — where audio signalling can also be problematic — Grosskopf recommended these same mics for this installation, knowing that they would most likely have a discrete enough signal to work in the angio suites and the auditoriums three floors down.

“This is highly magnetic field — especially when this MRA fires up — there’s RF just flooding this room,” he says. “Usually, [the doctors] wear lead vests. We went in confidently with these [mics], and they’ve been flawless.”

The wireless-mic system also provided doctors with the flexibility they need for their intense work schedules during broadcast surgeries. Normally, they move from suite to suite, one surgery to the next, and as a result, they required a mic system that could simply travel with them without stopping for any technical adjustments between surgies.

“The audio is transmitted and received on their wireless packs, and it’s just such a seamless, flawless transition between the rooms that, if you really weren’t paying attention, you’d never know they just walked 50ft. across the hall,” he says.

To get around the large amount of RF interference, IP Logic installed more receivers and transmitter antennas to provide narrower frequencies and more power. Grosskopf says it was old-fashioned experience that allowed his team to design the RF system, which included Sennheiser A2003-UFH wideband passive directional antennaes and a Sennheiser AB2 antenna RF booster module, to provide clear audio quality.

The presenter in the auditorium — one of the doctors from the neurosurgery department — is also equipped with an identical transmitter and receiver system. IP Logic also set up a wireless Sennheiser 100 series handheld mic in the auditorium that is used to take questions from the crowd, which the doctors performing surgeries in the suites can hear and answer immediately.

With the success of this installation, Grosskopf says IP Logic hopes to provide similar installations in other healthcare facilities. “We are in the process of really rolling it out to not only other local hospitals here in our footprint, but down in Pittsburgh and Albany,” he says. “The UB Neurosurgery Department has really supported us in this campaign. We’ve even been invited to speak in front of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons about this application and the success we’ve had with it. Through us, they really want to promote this kind of technology and drive it as a teaching tool.”

Even with the positive experience, Grosskopf encourages other integrators looking at infiltrating this market to be patient. Often, slow paperwork and the lengthy bureaucratic process inherent to healthcare facilities can hold up installations in this market. IP Logic conversations with UB, for instance, took more than three months to get the hospital to sign off on the proposal.


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