For the first time in history, a surgeon performed heart surgery without actually being in the room. Or building. Or town. The surgeon was 20 miles away from their patient, and the surgery was done with the assistance of a robot. Yes, we are officially living in the future.
A medical milestone
A surgeon in Ahmedabad, India recently performed the first heart surgery on a patient from 20 miles away. This was achieved with a CorPath GRX robot, which opened blood vessels in the patient's heart. Dr. Tejas Patel of the Apex Heart Institute (seen in the picture), who performed the surgery, said he was "honored to have been a part of this medical milestone." And a milestone it is.
How did it work?
Up until now, procedures have been conducted with the same robot located a few feet away from the operating table. The robot's workstation included joysticks and screen showing what the robot was doing.
For the long distance operation, an identical workstation was set up and connected to the robot with a high speed internet connection. Cameras in the operating room were also set up, and surgeons were instructed to wait outside the room to supervise the robot.
Why operate with a robot?
Surgeons have actually been using the help of robots since the 80s. Surgery performed with the help of robots are less invasive because robot arms are more precise and steady, and can make smaller incisions than human hands (because their movements are more exact than humans).
This means that the patient will experience less blood loss and pain, faster recovery time, and less chance of infection. Robots can also get to difficult-to-reach areas that would be difficult for human hands holding instruments.
Another benefit is that surgeons operating from outside the room aren't exposed to radiation from fluoroscopes, which are a fundamental part of many surgeries. Surgeons also have the ability to work remotely, giving them more freedom.
Is this the future of surgery?
Given the success of the procedures and the benefits for the patients and surgeons, the future of surgery is likely to include more robots like the CorPath GRX robot. Robots are already being used routinely for gynecological, prostate, kidney, colorectal, and gallbladder surgery. The da Vinci Surgical System was approved by the FDA in 2000 and is now widely used, and many new surgical robots are being developed and approved as technology advances.
It is only a matter of time before robots become an indispensable part of surgery worldwide, making it easier and safer than ever before. I, for one, welcome our new robot surgical assistants.
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