AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 29, Number 1, 2020


Neurosurgery in the Age of Instagram

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In 1993, Digital Imaging and Communication in Medicine (DICOM) replaced radiographic film and positioned medicine at the forefront of digital technology. Neurosurgeons quickly evolved from analog to digital practitioners using radiology piped directly into the Operating Room (OR) for multiple uses including neuro-navigation. Patients observing their neurosurgeon staring at scans on a monitor were astonished by neurosurgery’s hypermodern aura. A decade later, patients became familiar with the technology when the JPEG and digital camera largely supplanted photographic film. The development of social media platforms that favor visual content, such as Instagram (2010), married the cell phone camera to the sharing of JPEGs, solidifying pop culture engagement. DICOM, once revolutionary, feels arthritic and dusty compared to these platforms. DICOM remained confined to the health care setting due to privacy concerns and clumsy interfaces. Medical staff armed with cell phones birthed the medical JPEG that then began to stream beyond the clinic. 

The medical image is unlike other social media JPEGs. Those outside of medicine cannot source this content. The wide popularity of neurosurgical accounts is due to the appeal of the central nervous system and the impact of its afflictions. Neurosurgical galleries allow lay followers to glimpse our professional lives. Many of the most active neurosurgical handles originate from outside the U.S. and thus fall outside the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA). 

The medical JPEG is on the verge of becoming an art ­­fo­rm, coupling artistic and medical knowledge. High-quality images edited on the cell phone will collect many views, but the medical JPEG requires additional care and sensitivity in its presentation. The images must be displayed with professionalism, considering that they are derived from times of crisis and may represent the greatest challenge of that person’s life (and their loved ones, too). Hippocrates presciently said,

“I will remember that there is art to medicine as well as science. I will respect the privacy of my patients, for their problems are not disclosed to me that the world may know.”

Neurosurgeons are in conflict over the popularity of social media and the sharing culture. If the JPEG is stripped of metadata, does the surgeon who captured it have the right to post the anonymous anatomy? For those seeking to share cases to a broad medical audience, social media is efficient. 

The medical JPEG has already left the hard drive. The profound changes that this brings will influence the one minute medical video that will soon replace it. 

Click here for the short neurosurgery video: https://bit.ly/2rrnp3b

Popular Neurosurgery feeds:  @fashionsurgeon   @neurosurgeryindc   @neurocirurgiabr   @anamouramd   @diananeurocirurgia,

No Repost: Don’t quote the me, I might be wrong ?. I got the info off the #internet. 

Hotel California

acrylic painting on canvas (after JPEG sourced from the internet)


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