Healthcare Technology Featured Article

September 12, 2014

The Growing Role of Remote Live Surgery

There is a global shortage of surgeons around the world, but according to the World Journal of Surgery, the workforce is in crisis in many low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The low number of surgery and anesthesia providers is having a detrimental impact in these countries. Conditions that can be treated elsewhere because of the available workforce, in many instances results in patients losing their lives.

The World Health Organization (WHO) considers 57 countries to be in health workforce 'crisis,' which have general surgeon density ranging from 0.13 to 1.57 per 100,000 population  and anesthesiologist density ranging from 0 to 4.9 per 100,000. A live da Vinci hernia repair surgery broadcast by BroadcastMed, Inc. and Intuitive Surgical in Sunnyvale, CA, maybe a glimpse of the future in which surgeries can be performed across local, national and international locations.

The hernia repair operation was performed live on September 11, 2014 from Baptist Health's Center for Robotic Surgery at South Miami Hospital by Dr. Anthony Gonzalez MD, FACS. The da Vinci Inguinal Hernia Repair featured a fully sutured TAPP technique and a da Vinci Ventral Hernia Repair featuring closure of the primary defect, in addition to suturing the mesh in place.

Even though the daVinci system is capable of being operated from just about anywhere, it's most common to have the surgeon sitting right next to it, in the operating room with the patient. The effectiveness of the system is illustrated through its use of tiny robotic tools for much smaller incisions, and visual enhancements that provide valuable information the human eye may not be able to capture using infrared.

The technology has improved dramatically since Intuitive Surgical introduced the da Vinci Surgical System in 1999, and it is only a matter of time before this specific device is used to deliver surgical procedures around the world remotely.

In 2011, a remotely controlled robot performed heart surgery on a British patient using the Remote Catheter Manipulation System (RCMS), developed by Catheter Robotics. For the first time a British doctor at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital used a catheter robot to perform heart surgery on a patient while not in the operating room to correct an irregular heartbeat. This procedure was a great example of how the concept of remote surgeries is a viable one, and as the technology continues to improve, LMICs will eventually be able to have procedures performed by doctors in other countries.

Edited by Maurice Nagle
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