Live surgery in Southampton attracts huge twitter following

Paul Grundy (image courtesy of Daily Echo)

Awake brain surgery performed by Southampton surgeon Paul Grundy live on Channel 4 this week became one of the most talked about topics on international microblogging website Twitter.

Consultant neurosurgeon Mr Grundy, his team at Southampton General Hospital’s Wessex Neurological Centre and patient Peter Chaisit-Charles fielded questions from viewers throughout the hour-long programme The Operation: Surgery Live.

The series, which was shown over four nights, also included open-heart valve, pituitary tumour removal and stomach repair surgery at other leading NHS hospitals.

Viewers were able to use phone, email and Twitter to ask questions of the surgeons during the operations, which were broadcast live to a studio audience at the Wellcome Collection in London, as well as TV viewers at home.

Each night there were between 2,000 and 3,000 questions and comments posted - with Mr Grundy's surgery the second highest most 'tweeted' topic. The best questions were conveyed within seconds to the surgeons via presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy.

Mr Grundy, who has pioneered the widespread use of both awake and day-case surgery for brain tumours in the UK with Southampton’s neurosurgical team, said: "Being involved with this groundbreaking project enabled my team to really reach out to patients and the public and show them in a clear and simple way just what the process of awake brain surgery involves.

“I hope that by doing this we have eased many of the fears associated with this type of surgery and shown people that it isn't as daunting as they may have first thought."

David Glover, Channel 4’s commissioning editor for science, said: “I think the series has shown just how well television can work with other platforms and how the technology and content can work together really well.  Surgery is absolutely perfect for live TV and Twitter – the minute-by-minute drama is captivating and the surgeons are used to taking questions during their work. 

“The highlight for all of us was when Peter, the patient who was awake during his brain surgery, was actually able to answer questions sent in by viewers!”

Posted on Friday 29 May 2009