Channel Four has run a series of live surgery operations where viewers could directly question the surgeon live via microblogging site Twitter.
The series which pulled in an average audience of one million viewers set out to ‘demystify the experience of surgery.’
The Operation: Surgery Live, which was aired from Monday to Thursday night showed leading surgeons carrying out live operations including awake brain surgery, open heart surgery, tumour removal and stomach repair.
The surgery was aired via a satellite link between the various hospitals across the country and a studio audience at the Wellcome Collection in London as well as viewers at home. People were able to interact with leading surgeons by asking questions via Twitter, Facebook, email and telephone.
During Tuesday’s programme, in which awake brain surgery was carried out, the patient responded to a phone call from a viewer live on air.
Questions on the Twitter site included ‘are the surgeons always so relaxed,’ ‘what are the chances of paralysis’ and ‘how long can you stop a heart for?’
Comments on the page included ‘wow this is affecting me more than I was expecting’ and ‘I found watching the programme while eating yoghurt is a really bad idea’ as well as numerous people requesting another series.
A spokesperson for Channel 4 said told E-Health Insider: “Live surgery has been done before and on television but the nature of the surgery and the use of interactive media are both completely new.”
He added: “We are extremely pleased with the series and on top of the seven percent share of the audience that channel four had, the viewer’s reaction was extraordinary in terms of Facebook and Twitter.”
According to the presenter, Krishnan Guru-Murthy the Twitter page for Surgery Live was the most visited on the site. He tweeted: “Number one trend at one point tonight. Hoping there will be more in future – feel free to lobby C4!”
Adam Gee, Channel 4’s commissioning editor said: “Twitter is easily accessible, and actually the discipline of 140 characters is useful because it encourages crafted, contributions and not rambling messages. The idea was that this would feel like a networked conversation around the show.”
By the end of the series more than 1,800 people were adding and following questions on Twitter and 5400 people had joined the Facebook group to discuss the surgery.
Channel 4 said they have no current plans to run another series but given its success it is something they may consider in the future.