From Blockbuster to reality!

In 1997 a Hollywood Blockbuster was released called 'Face/Off'. It went on to gross nearly $300 million and was a huge success. It told the fantastical story of a government agent who had his face taken off, and replaced with the face of a criminal so he could take his place and fool his accomplices. At the time it seemed a ridiculous idea, but now, just 15 years later, it no longer seems so far-fetched.

In November 2005 the first person in the world to have a face transplant – surgeons in France transplanted the patients nose with a donor nose, lips and chin. In April 2010 the world's first full face transplant was carried out by doctors in Spain. Since then there have been further face transplant procedures in the USA, Turkey and China as well as more carried out in France and Spain. These advances are only possible thanks to the accuracy of computer imagery to plan out the cuts needed, guide lasers accurately and help with the mapping of blood vessels and nerve endings.

NB. Caution is advised regarding searching for images of face surgery. Injuries pre surgery can be horrific and can be unsuitable for children to view.

Computers in Medicine

Computers now play a huge part in the field of medicine. This role is only set to increase as computers get better and we become more dependent on them. Doctors from just 30 years ago would be amazed at the technology at our fingertips and our ability to investigate illness and injury. Thanks to advances in technology and computing we can even look inside people without them ever being cut! MRI and CAT scans are a good example of how computer technology has helped the medical field, and the patients. The doctor bringing up our electronic records on their computer, the small electronic equipment around his office – the automatic blood-pressure machine, but the reach of computer science into the field of medicine goes far deeper. The hospitals and medical research labs of today are like the science fiction movie sets of decades past with the fantastical becoming a step closer to reality every day.

The future - Internet Surgery

Another advancement that is expected to take off more and more in the future is the use of internet surgery. Internet Surgery makes use of fast Ethernet connections and robotic tools to perform the actual surgery. The surgeon does not have to be present in the room for this surgery to take place. The surgeon can be in any corner of the world and still feel exactly what he is doing, and looks at any tests he wants.

With this technology, the surgeon can even practice the surgery before the actual surgery takes place. This will greatly improve the surgeon's understanding of the procedure and all the risks involved with it. The most obvious advantage of this technology is that patients can choose a specialist from any part of the world. They are not limited by geography or extra traveling costs. This already happens at the consultation level with patients living in remote areas having consultations with specialists over a video conference.

Another advantage of this technology is that it is more precise and accurate than most human surgeons, so it can increase the likelihood of the patient's survival, especially in complicated surgeries like brain surgery. Surgeons have already used robots to perform surgeries such as heart transplants etc. where the accuracy of using the robot makes for better results than the human hand, but these have been done with the surgeon on site communicating directly with the computer and robot and not over the internet. Even though there are many advantages to Internet Surgery, it does have some major risks. The biggest risk is computer failure or network failure. A solution to this is having a backup team in theroom during the surgery so that if something goes wrong, they can take over.