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The operating room at Swedish Orthopedic Institute. (Swedish Medical Center Photo)

Yes, even the operating room has a hash tag now.

Aiming to promote its latest robot-assisted surgical technology, Swedish Orthopedic Institute in Seattle is planning a live webcast Tuesday morning of a 70-year-old patient’s partial knee replacement surgery. Any random person on the Internet will be able to watch and listen in on the action, chat live with an orthopedic surgeon — no, not the one doing the procedure — and ask questions on Twitter using the hash tag #livekneesurgery.

It might sound like the geekiest surgery ever, but it’s actually part of a trend. Sherman Hospital in Elgin, Ill., claims to be the first to ever live-tweet a surgery — a robot-assisted hysterectomy — on April 2, 2009.

That, in turn, helped inspire a story line on Grey’s Anatomy, as Dr. Miranda Bailey of the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital live tweeted a surgery over the objections of her higher-ups — only to run into complications that prompted another hospital to offer a solution … via Twitter, of course.

Swedish Orthopedic Institute isn’t expecting anything so dramatic. The patient undergoing knee replacement volunteered and agreed to the live stream, according to the hospital, which describes the procedure as minimally invasive. The hospital notes that the patient’s safety is the No. 1 priority, and the doctor will have the discretion to stop the webcast if necessary.

The webcast starts at 7 a.m. Pacific Time on Tuesday with a discussion of the procedure, followed at 8 a.m by the main event.




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