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Developing the SurgiCam® Digital Video Camera

ErgoPractice News – November 2014
By Jin Chang PhD

Advancing Education, Collaboration and Documentation

From its founding, SurgiTel has been dedicated to research and education. And throughout history, training has been done through written, diagrammatic and photographic materials. The desire to go beyond static print into dynamic video proceeded with the advent of digital technology with analog systems. We observed numerous drawbacks to this early technology:

  1. These cameras were mounted on adjustable arms or overhead lights and required continual adjustment.
  2. Even if directly pointed at the target site, hands, head, tools, and shadows crossed the field.
  3. In order to use the analog output digitally for storing or editing, it required a long and complicated analog-to-digital conversion process.
  4. Was hard to track and organize recorded files.
  5. The systems required several large boxes including a control unit, a dedicated recording device, et cetera.
  6. Purchasing, maintaining, and updating all this equipment was overwhelmingly expensive.

Development of 1st Generation Digital Video Camera: SurgiCam

Witnessing the advance of the digital revolution, we began to imagine a different kind of camera system. An affordable, convenient, fully digital system that can also capture a clear and unobstructed target. Our main design specifications were as follows:

  1. The loupe, headlight, and camera should be integrated. To achieve this specification, SurgiTel invented a video camera system which includes a mount with a clip-on structure and two pivot arms: one for the camera and another for headlight (Figure 1).1 Using this technology, the loupes view the target, the light illuminates the target, and the camera records the procedure.
  2. Should use CMOS image sensors (640 x 480) with digital output. The feed should be 100% digital; ready for streaming and will not require conversion.
  3. Should utilize the universal USB connection, used in personal computers (desktop, laptop, or tablet). This would eliminate the expensive, dedicated control unit and recording device.
  4. Must feature companion software which makes procedures easy to record.
  5. Files must be instantly ready for playback and easy to organize (drag-and-drop).
  6. Must be ultra-lightweight.

In late 2006 we made several production prototypes meeting the above requirements and then introduced 1st loupe-mountable digital video cameras with three lens options (2x, 3x, or 5x). We named this the SurgiCam. The price of the SurgiCam system was significantly lower than traditional camera systems, offering several added advantages at the same time. The camera received glowing reviews, citing it was “easy to record and edit” with the USB plug and play technology. Clinicians found they could share their procedure with their assistant by displaying a live feed on a monitor. Traditionally, the assistant is often unable to have a very clear view of the target site. In this way, the assistant was able to anticipate the dentist’s needs, reducing coordination time during a procedure. Also, this allowed them to playback video to communicate visually with their patients.2

Development of 2nd Generation Digital Video Camera: SurgiCam Pro

With inputs from users of the 1st generation SurgiCam, SurgiTel developed the SurgiCam Pro and released this product in 2010. The SurgiCam Pro featured all the advantages of the SurgiCam, including the 2x, 3x, or 5x lens options, and added two new functions requested by users. The first was the capability to record audio with the video, often functioning as a way to take notes or to record the narration. The other was the ability to take high resolution (1280 x 1024), still images during recording by using a foot pedal. Both video and still images are processed through the software. The photos are saved in the universal .jpg format and are easily edited, stored, and shared. Videos are saved in the universal .avi format.
Dr. Miller of Reality tried this camera on a computer with the patient’s chart in Dentrix also open and had no problem recording a video.3
Dr. Singer of Lehigh Valley uses SurgiCam Pro to record procedures which he shares using his website,

Consideration of Larger Video Files

After the release of the SurgiCam Pro, research began on the possibility of increasing the file resolutions and creating a 3rd, “SurgiCam HD” model. Prototype models were created and tested. We found that, at this point, the benefits of the technology did not justify the additional complications this would add to our current ‘slim’ system. We observed the following disadvantages:

  • First and foremost, the additional pixels did help the image seem crisper, but it did not significantly change what was seen in the recording. All the valuable details of the procedure were recorded using the SurgiCam Pro.
  • This version would be much more expensive. This may be a plus for the manufacturer, but certainly not for the consumer.
  • Software magnification using post-processing effects may achieve the best results with high resolutions. However, SurgiTel offers optical magnification with the 2x, 3x or 5x lenses. With three lens options, we do not need digital magnification.
  • The enhanced resolution of SurgiCam Pro still images (1280 x 1024) is more than enough for publication.
  • The standard resolution of SurgiCam Pro is faster and easier to share online through streaming or uploading.
  • The additional processing requirements may interfere with running other software.
  • May increase computer requirements, limiting available computers to use.

We have chosen to support our SurgiCam Pro system which we believe best supports the clinician however they work.

Applications of SurgiCam Digital Cameras:

Since their introduction, SurgiCam digital cameras have been used by dental professionals, surgeons, and veterinarians all over the world for a variety of purposes. Examples include:

  • Hands-on training: Either live or recorded, others get an unobstructed view of the teacher’s work.
  • Sharing: Share the video with others locally or over the internet.
  • Publication: Unique and new procedures can be shared with outside parties.
  • Documentation: Keep an indisputable record of entire procedures.
  • Transmitting: Transmit live procedures anywhere in the world.
  • Consultation: Help patients approve proposed treatment plans or coordinate remote consultation in an instant.

SurgiTel’s Assistance to Hands-on Training:

For over the last 20 years, SurgiTel has partnered with educators throughout the country to help facilitate hands-on training courses where trainees learn not only specific procedures but also new tools for performing their work more effectively and with better ergonomics. With the assistance of SurgiTel staff members, we may loan the use of a SurgiCam Pro to hands-on training courses, enhancing the participants’ experience.
Please contact me with any inquiries.


  1. Clip-On Video Camera System for Medical, Surgical and Dental Applications. B.J. Chang Ph.D, assignee. US Patent No. 8,068,169 B2. 29 Nov. 2011.
  2. Hollar, D. Wayne, Jr. “Being a Servant to Others.” Dental Economics Dec. 2009: 12-15.
  3. Michael B. Miller, D.D.S., Ingrid R. Castellanos, C.D. First Look, Interoral Camera, SurgiCam Pro., 2011
  4. Singer, R. (2014). [online] Available at: [Accessed 20 Nov. 2014].