Can you really teach yourself to do a bilateral orchiectomy by reading a book? Would watching a few YouTube videos make you confident enough to perform an appendectomy? Could an iPhone app actually help you learn the skills needed to amputate a toe?
Maybe. Maybe not.
Surgical Dictation is available for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, and aims to help both medical students and licensed doctors learn common operational procedures, from toe amputations, to open tracheostomies, to small bowel resections. The mobile handbook relies on fictional cases to guide would-be surgeons through the the basic steps of the operations, beginning with the incision and ending with the wound closure.
But this app is best served as guidance for medical students and doctors who are already familiar with the basic surgical routines; it's not intended to help just anybody perform amputations or repair hernias. Unlike some of the dedicated, self-taught, DIY-surgeons out there who are crazy enough to carry out life-threatening (and possibly life-saving) procedures on themselves, most of us would best learn from hands-on training, something only 4 years of medical school and 5 years of residency training would provide.
Learning how to play "Sweet Home Alabama" on the guitar is a little different than learning how to make an incision in the abdominal wall, remove fatty tissue, expose the inguinal canal, remove weakened tissue, suture the tissue layers and staple the skin for a complete inguinal hernia repair. Though online video demonstrations on things like sutures and thymectomies can't replace hands-on training or academic congresses, they're still great study aides for students and doctors alike.
Maybe an iPhone app can even be worth a gander—especially if you're always on the move.
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