While physicians have been using robots in surgical procedures for almost 20 years, telesurgery—using robots or other medical devices to perform a surgery remotely—is still an uncommon feat.
Dr Tejas Patel, chairman and chief interventional cardiologist of the Apex Heart Institute in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, just made medical history. He controlled a robotic arm from 20 miles (32 km) away to operate on five patients.
The surgeries’ successful results were published in EClinicalMedicine, a spin-off of The Lancet, under the title, “Long Distance Tele-Robotic-Assisted Percutaneous Coronary Intervention: A Report of First-in-Human Experience.”
“I am honoured to have been a part of this medical milestone,” Dr Patel told ZDNet. “The application of telerobotics for remote treatment has the potential to impact a significant number of lives by providing access to specialised care that may not otherwise be possible. I am pleased to share my experience with the clinical community in such a well-respected publication that is part of the Lancet family.”
Surgery is one of the last frontiers of telemedicine, the remote delivery of healthcare services via telecommunications devices. Telemedicine allows healthcare providers to evaluate, diagnose and treat patients using technology such as video conferencing and smartphones. Eventually, telemedicine could lower costs involved with healthcare and ease shortages of nurses and doctors.
Dr Patel used the CorPath GRX, a precision vascular robot developed by Corindus. He also used a hardwired internet connection and a set of joysticks and a video monitor to control the robot.
The robotics company has performed remote cases in the US following Dr Patel’s breakthrough.
“Remote procedures have the potential to transform how we deliver care when treating the most time-sensitive illnesses such as heart attack and stroke,” says Mark Toland, president and CEO of Corindus Vascular Robotics.
“The success of this study paves the way for large-scale, long-distance telerobotic platforms across the globe, and its publication in Lancet’s EClinicalMedicine demonstrates the transformative nature of telerobotics. While remote robotic procedures are still in the early stages of development, it is clear we are on track to expand patients’ access to care, while reducing their time to treatment.”