A methodology for the annotation of surgical videos for supervised machine learning applications

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



International journal of computer assisted radiology and surgery




Endoscopic surgery; Operative patient data; Surgical data science; Surgical video annotation


PURPOSE: Surgical data science is an emerging field focused on quantitative analysis of pre-, intra-, and postoperative patient data (Maier-Hein et al. in Med Image Anal 76: 102306, 2022). Data science approaches can decompose complex procedures, train surgical novices, assess outcomes of actions, and create predictive models of surgical outcomes (Marcus et al. in Pituitary 24: 839-853, 2021; Røadsch et al. in Nat Mach Intell, 2022). Surgical videos contain powerful signals of events that may impact patient outcomes. A necessary step before the deployment of supervised machine learning methods is the development of labels for objects and anatomy. We describe a complete method for annotating videos of transsphenoidal surgery. METHODS: Endoscopic video recordings of transsphenoidal pituitary tumor removal surgeries were collected from a multicenter research collaborative. These videos were anonymized and stored in a cloud-based platform. Videos were uploaded to an online annotation platform. Annotation framework was developed based on a literature review and surgical observations to ensure proper understanding of the tools, anatomy, and steps present. A user guide was developed to trained annotators to ensure standardization. RESULTS: A fully annotated video of a transsphenoidal pituitary tumor removal surgery was produced. This annotated video included over 129,826 frames. To prevent any missing annotations, all frames were later reviewed by highly experienced annotators and a surgeon reviewer. Iterations to annotated videos allowed for the creation of an annotated video complete with labeled surgical tools, anatomy, and phases. In addition, a user guide was developed for the training of novice annotators, which provides information about the annotation software to ensure the production of standardized annotations. CONCLUSIONS: A standardized and reproducible workflow for managing surgical video data is a necessary prerequisite to surgical data science applications. We developed a standard methodology for annotating surgical videos that may facilitate the quantitative analysis of videos using machine learning applications. Future work will demonstrate the clinical relevance and impact of this workflow by developing process modeling and outcome predictors.


Neurological Surgery