We're a little crazy, about science!

Experiments from the OR

The last place you would expect to see me doing non-invasive research would be the operating room. Surgery, even the minor stuff, can be very invasive, but that doesn’t mean we can’t collaborate and combine our techniques. Of course this is the first time anyone in the hospital has tried to collaborate like this (that we know of anyway) so there’s bound to be some growing pains. Luckily we’re about to go into our second real attempt at this and I think we’ve worked out all the problems.

Ever see those hospital TV shows with all the drama? Yeah, I’m happy to tell you that part is real. Surgery is stressful so it’s not too surprising that every once and awhile there are stories of surgeons throwing scalpels (no idea if that story is true, but the source was trustworthy). In fact, not too long ago we had our own little drama in the OR (here) and we would like to avoid that this time around. Since our experiment is on Tuesday, it’s my job to come up with the protocol outline.

The problem with doing experiments in the OR is that there on a time crunch. While it’s not a huge problem to tack on an extra 30-45 minutes for experiments anything longer than that is pushing our luck. More importantly the longer the patient is under anesthesia the more the risk increases for them, so our goal is to get in, get set up, and get our data. We anticipate that our experiment will take roughly 20 minutes start to finish and most of our setup can be done while the OR team is doing their patient prep, so if we do this correctly we will add minimal time to the procedure.

In theory this is fine, but rarely does everything go according to plan so we need to be extra ready to go or risk running over our time when we run into the first bit of trouble. That’s the thing about research, the equipment is great, until it isn’t. Things break, software crashes, signals are unexplainably noisy, there’s just a lot. Which as I mentioned earlier with our last OR attempt, it lead to the tech literally leaving the room and the company threatening to stop offering their services… oops.

To help take the stress off this time, we’ve coordinated with one of the neurophysiologists who agreed to be the one in the room with us while we’re working to make sure stress is minimal and that we all know what’s going to happen before we start doing stuff. The timeline outline I’m making this weekend should help a lot with that, it will be detailed enough that both the surgeon (who is, in fact, surgeon-PI) and the neurophysiologist are aware of how long we think the experiment will last and all the parts that go into what we’re trying to do.

Hospital-PI has emailed me a hand drawn sketch of what he’s looking for, after I emailed him a fancy outline, so I need to adjust mine to match his more closely. The changes are minor, he wants me to add some more information to what we’re doing, but the funny part of this story is that he hand drew it on printer paper, took a photo, then emailed it to me. He’s a PhD/MD so I now know that I do not have what it takes to get my MD because while I thought my handwriting was a mess, he’s shown me I am but an amateur. Alas I will have to settle for just a PhD I guess.

So yeah, busy(ish) weekend getting ready for the big day. Hopefully we will be able to get things done fairly smoothly. I was also asked to custom make some equipment for the experiments so I have a bunch of arts and crafts engineering projects to do. That will probably get done tomorrow (hopefully, assuming I have enough time). Things have obviously been a bit hectic lately, okay always. I admit it, life is always hectic and I don’t know if it will slow down once I graduate, but one can hope.

The plan for the day is get the outline redone and get hospital-PI’s approval so we can send it out to the rest of the group. Once that happens we should have a much better experience overall come the big day. It will (unfortunately) be a very early in the morning surgery, so very little prep time prior to the event. That means everything will need to be organized and ready to go Monday evening so we can just roll it over to the OR the day of the surgery. The problem with that is simply things break when you’re not looking at them directly. A watched pot never boils and a watched computer never crashes, or something like that. So I’m a little nervous that technology gremlins will visit in the night, but hopefully there will be at least a little time for last minute checks.

And here I was thinking regular experiments are hectic and time consuming!

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