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Published on July 16th, 2020 | by Emergent Enterprise


Socially Distant Surgery is Now Possible Nine Miles Away

Emergent Insight:
Socially distant surgery. A term probably only applicable because of virtual reality. Sarah Wells has posted an article at Inverse about the increasing use of “telesurgery” where the surgeon is not in the same room as the patient. The surgery could be done from the next room, the next county, across the country or from around the globe. The improving VR technology combined with 5G and robotics makes it all possible. The advantages (more consistent procedures, safer, leveraging surgeon expertise) far outweigh the problems (lack of haptics for surgeon, no surgeon-to-patient contact) and it could become the norm as healthcare workers and patients become more accustomed to it. In fact, the technology could detect problems using computer vision and sensors that a human may not. Bring on the doctor robots.

Original Article:

Your next operation could be done by a remote-controlled robot doctor.

Surgery can be intimidating and hard to access at the best of times, but sky-rocketing Covid-19 cases in the U.S. have made getting non-essential surgeries not only dangerous but in some states, like Texas, completely inaccessible. Physicians in Italy might just have a solution in the form of a socially distant, 5G enabled surgery.

WHAT’S THE NEWS — A new study published Monday in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, a team of Italian physicians demonstrated that it was possible to successfully complete an invasive surgery on a patient from 9 miles (15 kilometers) away using remote-controlled robotic tools. While this team is not the first to ever complete telesurgery — the first telesurgery was completed almost twenty-years ago in 2001 — efforts in this field have been long stagnated by slow robotic and communication networks advances.

But thanks to the emergence of 5G, this surgery is now possible in a way it never was before, which could help make live-saving surgeries more accessible in remote parts of the world and even in space.

HOW DOES IT WORK — While the surgery itself was completed from nearly 10-miles away, the initial preparation for the surgery did take place at the hospital itself. Two local assistants first prepared a cadaver for surgery and also set the parameters for the remote tools that were to be used.

Thanks to the speed of 5G networks, physicians in Italy demonstrated the possibility of a socially distant surgery using VR goggles and a tablet. Photo: Annals of Internal Medicine

With the “patient” prepped, a physician began conducting surgery on his vocal cords using remote-controlled forceps and lasers. On the surgeon’s end, this looked like using VR goggles for 3D visualization of the operation and controlling the remote, robotic devices using a tablet and a haptic feedback device. For the patient, the surgery was carried out by a laser system, a robotic arm wielding forceps, and a 3D camera.

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