This year the Australasian College of Surgeons met in Bangkok. I’ve always loved Thailand and signed up early for the week in the warm, fascinating, beautiful, crazy and polluted Kingdom of Thailand. Bizzarely, as I dropped in for the firs visit it years the Thais were celebrating the coronation of their new King and the capital was looking more beautiful than ever with posters, flags, flowers and temples everywhere to celebrate the auspicious occasion.
The College meeting is different for everyone because there are often four, five of six sessions running concurrently with lots of choices and variety. That’s before you get tempted by catching up with friends and colleagues for lunch, dinner or drinks. So for me the themes that came out of the meeting we about technology, especially artificial intelligence and diversity which has been front and center for a few years now.
In some ways that’s odd because there’s nothing about the technical aspects of my job. Sometimes that’s the way – and this year the most exciting stuff about reconstructive surgery was from the genetics lab where certain ‘unsolvable’ problems are slowly being nutted out. I will remain ever grateful to those doing that work because it won’t be me!
So, artificial intelligence, makes its way into the OR! The smart Neurosurgeons have forever been trying to leverage technology to make some of their work more successful. (Check out the work of Antonio Di Ieva). Some brain tumours are just nasty – aggressive, prone to reccurr quickly and associated with damaging surgery and terrible long term results. New work using Fractal geometry and computer learning is trying to steer surgery better to remove tumours more completely while damaging surrounding brain less. Clearly the maths is making it into the mainstream and into the theatre. Hopefully it makes a big difference.
Part of this progress is due to ever greater access to computational tools previously stuck in university departments, programmed by experts and horribly expensive. The new centre at Maquarie Uni in computational medicine will be a first but not the last. Artificial intelligence tools are much more broadly available and coming to be used in new ways every month.
This has me thinking about my field and especially about melanoma. We still have problems with diagnosis in melanoma – too many patioents needs invasive biopsies for rule out the presence of melanoma when all along they have benign moles. Expert assessment is not that accurate and cameras, microscopes and fancy lights have only helped a little. The field is crying out for better tools and they are coming. I’m expecting the AI would to march into skin assessment just as it is taking steps into radiology and pathology. Interesting days!