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Medicine Robotics United Kingdom Science

UK Docs Perform First Remote-Control Heart Surgery 142

Posted by timothy
from the a-a-b-up-down-a-b-no-wait dept.
ByronScott writes "Doctors at a British hospital have just carried out the world's first surgery using a remote-controlled robot. The procedure fixed a patient's irregular heart rhythm, and although the doctor was in the same hospital as the patient — just through the wall in another room — developers of the RC surgery technology believe this is the first step toward long-distance operations. Imagine a doctor in London performing surgery on your heart in New York!"
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UK Docs Perform First Remote-Control Heart Surgery

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 30, 2010 @01:06AM (#32041168)

    in the middle of a critical action during a life threatening operation. I'd also be worried about lag as one would assume that some surgical procedures require timely precision.

    • That's why we gotta get those dirty pirates and their bittorrents off the nets.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Joce640k (829181)

      This is why we need to demand more net neutrality!

    • As usual science fiction is faster than reality -- although by just 2 weeks this time.

      Heart surgery was performed in Stargate Universe "Divided" (S0112) on Dr Rush to remove an alien tracking device. The earth surgeon arrived by out-of-body experience while their ship was being bombarded by an alien fleet. ("Welcome to destinty. We are under attack by aliens, shields are holding, for now")

      And yes, the connection was lost just before the device was removed leaving the clueless body double to do the actual re

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by VShael (62735)

        And yes, the connection was lost just before the device was removed

        Wait a minute... Are they using Verizon on the Destiny?

      • Well there is good news and bad news. The technology is developed and working... that is the good news.

        It is manufactured by Toyota ... that is the bad news.

        Hope they have a black box attached like the government mandates the aircraft industry to have.

    • by 1s44c (552956)

      in the middle of a critical action during a life threatening operation. I'd also be worried about lag as one would assume that some surgical procedures require timely precision.

      Surely they would require a private virtual circuit for this. Doing this over the internet is asking for trouble.

      • by EdIII (1114411)

        Doing this over the internet is asking for trouble.

        Doing this over a single connection is asking for somebody, at some point, to die.

        The only way this could achieve a reasonable level of safety is multiple circuits for load balancing and redundancy.

        There is no way this would be used on a regular basis anyways. I would imagine it is being developed for very remote and rural areas so that a surgeon could perform life saving surgery on a patient whose condition has high mortality rates increasing every minute

        • by nasch (598556)

          Surgery is an extremely delicate in any situation requiring telepresence like this. The scalpel hitching even a little bit could cause death.

          In some ways this technique is actually superior to normal surgery, because the device can remove the natural slight shaking that anyone's hand, even a skilled surgeon, will exhibit. It can also scale the movements way down so that for example 1 centimeter of movement of the hand translates to one millimeter of movement of the instrument, allowing much greater precision. I'm not saying there aren't potential problems, but I think it's silly to think that /. commenters have thought of them and the people w

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      I know right, I've live in the US and I've played on Jolt servers. Imagine, "Connection Dropped: due to packet loss, unable to complete left ventrical reconnection. Please try again in a few minutes".
      The worst would be if the IW devs had something to do with creating the system. Then you'd rejoin and be thrown into an appendix removal lobby instead of your bypass lobby.
  • High Ping Bastards (Score:5, Insightful)

    by OnePumpChump (1560417) on Friday April 30, 2010 @01:09AM (#32041188)
    Until I can get reliably get pings low enough to play intercontinental TF2, I won't want anyone playing Operation Online in my guts, thanks.
    • by izomiac (815208)
      It seems to me this isn't for when you really have a choice. I'd expect it's more for people in Antarctica, or the ISS, or who are about to die in like 15 minutes without a highly specialized surgery in a rural/field hospital.
      • by hvm2hvm (1208954)
        So a hospital without highly specialized surgery equipment will have instead the robot and all the infrastructure it needs?
        • It's not the equipment, it's the surgeon. Depending on the type of procedure, some surgeons can be highly specialized in a specific kind of surgery. Even the large medical centers don't always have all the specialists on staff at all times.

          So $1'000'000 for the robot is a lot cheaper for a regional-level center than maintaining a dedicated surgical staff who are trained in every kind of specialized surgery. Furthermore, specialists need to practice, and in a smaller hospital they may not get enough cases to

          • First surgery - Brain surgery to remove tumor requiring specialist from out of state/country, specialist doesn't have to waste time flying to different hospitals.

            Surgery over, the specialist in his network connected RC lab takes a break, gets a gatorade. And gets ready for his next surgery in another part of the world.

            At the remote hospital they hose down the Robot and get a fresh pack of instruments from the autoclave, restock the surgical theater and prep for an open heart surgery via another telepresence

            • by TheMeuge (645043)

              The thing is that it doesn't replace the annual salary of anyone. As I mentioned, it is rather unlikely that a hospital that has the requisite specialist on staff will go for a machine instead.

              Nothing replaces being on site, and looking and touching the patient in medicine... and any hospital that has the specialist on staff has sufficient number of cases for that surgeon to operate on. Therefore, rather than eliminating surgical jobs, it would likely add some, by allowing a larger center to staff surgeons

            • I worked on a network that was MPLS connected over the Verizon backbone, not the Intarwebs and my ping time from Washington DC to Los Angeles was 60ns. Playing Wow from my Comcast in DC to a West Coast server I never beat 120ns, and frequently double that.

              60 ns? That's fucking miraculous.

              • by RobVB (1566105)

                Exactly. Having a 60 ns ping to anything more than 9 meters (29.5 feet) away would be Nobel prize-worthy.

            • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

              by DadLeopard (1290796)
              Too bad people are such individuals when it come to component placement! Otherwise they could just run a tape of the first successful operation and automate the process like they do in the automotive industry! An operator controls the robot till they get the job done perfect once, then they just play that recorded session over for each job! Lack of standardization in human anatomy really makes thing tough! 8-)
      • The military and other organizations are working up shipping containers with these robots, so what if you're a highly paid specialist, and don't want to leave home, but want to offer your specialty to soldier's abroad, earthquake victims, people in Doctors without Borders countries but don't want to be shot at, or risk local diseases while offering the treatment.

        You take the $1 mil robot, pack it in a shipping container, and load it on a boat, plane or truck to your disaster of choice.

        Obviously if the cost

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by tk (3690)

      Assumption of familiar internet protocol connection layer and crappy consumer-quality routing services. Straw man joke. Laughter.

    • Until I can get reliably get pings low enough to play intercontinental TF2, I won't want anyone playing Operation Online in my guts, thanks.

      http://www.cnbrandshop.com/ [cnbrandshop.com]

    • by timeOday (582209)

      Until I can get reliably get pings low enough to play intercontinental TF2, I won't want anyone playing Operation Online in my guts, thanks.

      How important are quick reflexes to performing surgery? Not that important, as far as I know.

  • Where art thou? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    London and NY? More likely, imagine NHS outsourcing to India, China, lowest bidder etc....

    • URGENT!!!! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Hognoxious (631665) on Friday April 30, 2010 @02:17AM (#32041566) Homepage Journal

      London and NY? More likely, imagine NHS outsourcing to India, China, lowest bidder etc....

      Coming soon on alt.medicine.heart-surgery...

      Ha folks, Sunesh here. I am surgeon at Chennai Instatute of Cardiology and needing to do some bypass. Pls to explaining difference between vain and artery. Patient is already opened, so reply quickly kthank's.

      • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I would love to see that comment modded funny... Sadly I think +5 (all too likely to happen) is more reasonable.

      • by TheDugong (701481)

        "Sunesh here. I am surgeon at Chennai Instatute of Cardiology and needing to do some bypass. Pls to explaining difference between vain and artery. Patient is already opened so please do the needful and revert with same kthank's."

        Fixed that for you.

  • with malware popping up in fridges and ATM's, how long will it be before the malware infects one of these machines, maybe it will write web addresses on your incision.
    • by Jeremi (14640)

      how long will it be before the malware infects one of these machines, maybe it will write web addresses on your incision.

      Most likely it will either turn you into a zombie, or carve you up into spam.

  • Imagine a doctor in London performing surgery on your heart in New York!

    Imagine a DDOS on the hospital server while your brit doc is performing surgery on your heart/brain/penis!
    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Imagine a hitman or terminator blowing up the hospital and trying to kill you while a team of hot lesbian *female doctors are scrubbing each other down as they prepare to perform your penis enlargement. Oh... I thought we were playing the what-if game..

      • by Cryacin (657549)
        We were? That happened to me last Tuesday you insensitive clod!
      • by Fex303 (557896)

        Imagine a hitman or terminator blowing up the hospital and trying to kill you while a team of hot lesbian *female doctors are scrubbing each other down as they prepare to perform your penis enlargement.

        Michael Bay? Is that you?

  • I've always wondered the benefits of long distance remote controlled operations. Wouldn't you much rather have a skilled surgeon standing over you performing with all of his/her senses, instead of some doctor in London?

    • by Fex303 (557896) on Friday April 30, 2010 @01:18AM (#32041256)

      Wouldn't you much rather have a skilled surgeon standing over you performing with all of his/her senses, instead of some doctor in London?

      All of his/her senses? Hmmm... I think I'd rather they don't use their sense of taste, if that's all the same to everyone else.

    • by jayke (1531583)
      You obviously would prefer that, but the technology becomes really useful when you don't have immediate access to a particular specialist who can perform that procedure. You probably wouldn't use it to remove an appendix :)
    • by necro81 (917438)
      It is possible that, despite the sensory shortcomings of long-distance surgery, that a well-trained telesurgeon could be better at a particular procedure than anyone who is actually there at the hospital. Rather than paying for such a highly qualified surgeon to always be there on staff, the hospital could have a telesurgery suite and bring in the expertise when needed.

      I find this a dubious argument personally, but it is one argument that can be made. A more likely situation is a surgeon, who is the be
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dr. Evil (3501)

      Think about enhanced reality. No shaky hands, no rubber gloves, surface-track a beating heart and the surgeon could operate as though it weren't even moving. Scale reality to 100x, and arteries become sewer pipes.

      But yeah, I don't really understand the tele-part of this. It seems like it would only be useful in the scenario that a remote hospital has a state-of-the-art medical facility with robotic surgeons and for some reason doesn't have a heart surgeon on hand.

      • But yeah, I don't really understand the tele-part of this. It seems like it would only be useful in the scenario that a remote hospital has a state-of-the-art medical facility with robotic surgeons and for some reason doesn't have a heart surgeon on hand.

        There are specialties among heart surgery as with anything else. No hospital can afford to employ every kind of specialist full-time, even assuming there were enough of each to go around. The ability to operate remotely allows a hospital to obtain the help of a specialist from another hospital on short notice, as may be required in an emergency—even mid-surgery, in the even something unexpectedly goes wrong.

        Even in the cases where the specialist would have had enough time to travel to the patient's ho

  • World first, hey? (Score:4, Informative)

    by scdeimos (632778) on Friday April 30, 2010 @01:13AM (#32041230)

    From: http://www.pbs.org/wnet/innovation/episode7_essay1.html [pbs.org]

    Telesurgery made international news on September 7, 2001, when the first transatlantic surgical procedure took place between New York City and Strasbourg, France at a distance of nearly 4,000 miles. Dubbed "Operation Lindbergh" after Charles Lindbergh's first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic, the surgery was a landmark in experimental long distance telesurgery.

    This was also reported in the BBC News, so the English really should know better: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/1552211.stm [bbc.co.uk]

    • I can't any link, but it wasn't too long after they robots operating on beating hearts, perfectly matching the heartbeat, that humans can't possibly do. What's new here?

    • by LordLucless (582312) on Friday April 30, 2010 @03:10AM (#32041818)

      RTFH: This claims to be the world first heart surgery performed remotely. Your link is for a gall bladder removal.

      • by CondeZer0 (158969)

        Maybe the parent post thought the gallbladder is part of the heart... never underestimate people's anatomical illiteracy ;)

  • Well, that and how many other nurses and doctors, a *clean* operating theater, a first-rate hospital, an amazing supply system and so on. Not quite a "robotic operation", quite yet. But, still, grats!
  • by T Murphy (1054674) on Friday April 30, 2010 @01:18AM (#32041262) Journal
    Ooh boy, the patient just flatlined! Wait.. nevermind, lagspike. Well, we better be careful- I hear this Comcast service can cost you an arm an a leg.
  • by WindBourne (631190) on Friday April 30, 2010 @01:21AM (#32041278) Journal
    Simply put, they are building the machinery to allow the cutting, but the next step will be to replace the physical ppl. What that translate into, a guaranteed job USE to be a medical doc. The future says no.
    • by lcllam (714572)
      I agree. This will happen about the time technology can do a full physiological reading in seconds over thousands (millions?) of markers and tie that to a huge knowledge system - probably not in our lifetimes. At this point, doctors will only elicit symptoms (such as discomfort levels, but this will eventually also be quantified and handled by machine) and key the 'soft' data into the system.
      • This is about surgery; Cutting. No physiological work needed. My guess is that vet work will start in this decade and human trials will start by 2030, possibly 2025.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by locofungus (179280)

      This was reported on BBC R4 today program yesterday morning.

      The reason for the remote operation is because they're using X-rays. Previously, surgeons have had to wear heavy lead aprons while doing this. When these operations take 6 hours+ that's a physical demand it would be preferable they didn't have to suffer.

      Tim.

      • Robotic surgery was mentioned on Radio 4's "News Quiz" last lear I think, with the robot operating and real-life surgeons standing by. Jeremy Hardy quipped "and they didn't try to stop it? [What is the world coming to when robots can march around performing surgery willy-nilly]." As Bender said: "And I need a heart. A human heart. (I need to pump a lot of blood out of my basement.)"
    • by TheMeuge (645043)

      As soon as robots can perform multivariable analysis and perceive and identify objects. By then, we'll all be wired and the concept will be irrelevant.

  • Only on bypass (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Chris Snook (872473) on Friday April 30, 2010 @01:24AM (#32041292)

    If we're talking about heart surgery that happens while your heart is stopped, then a transatlantic session wouldn't be a problem, but 100 ms latency links plus moving parts are a bad combination.

    • Depends. You could work around this quite easily by having a two-stage setup. The remote doctor controls a haptic rig and performs surgery on the model. The local surgeon, who isn't a specialist, follows has their rig follow the commands of the remote surgeon on the model, feels the same feedback, and then does the same operation on the real patient. The local surgeon is the one actually making the cuts, but the remote one gives them instructions a few seconds earlier on exactly how to do this step of t

  • by n1hilist (997601) on Friday April 30, 2010 @01:38AM (#32041364)

    Connection reset by peer.

    No route to host.

    %!@JQJA^NO CARRIER

    "Installing service pack 3"

    etc;

  • Imagine a doctor in London performing surgery on your heart in New York!

    I left my heart...

    ...In San Francisco.

  • "Imagine a doctor in London performing surgery on your heart in New York!"

    I'd rather not, frankly. I'd rather imagine my tax money being used to provide adequate local services such that this kind of tech was not needed.

    • There's local, and there's local. A lot of the time, if you need an unusual non-emergency procedure on the NHS, they'll transfer you to a different hospital, often on the other side of the country, where there is an expert specialist. They could save a lot of money by letting a surgeon in Bristol operate on a patient in York, for example.

      The biggest benefit, however, is going to be when they can get this kind of equipment into a slightly more portable form. Imagine an accident victim being able to go

  • If they use windows, after every hip replacement, kidney transplant or other hardware modification, you'll have to reboot the system.

    Also, watch out for McAfee, as it might shut off vital processes.
  • They tried this back in 1867. The doctor would pass his instructions by telegraph out to the coast, where someone would use semaphore flags out to a ship, where a spotter would interpret to an operator of an all-brass, steam-powered robot, through in intricate system of valves and gear shifts. It was a failure, after the spotter had to look up the letter P, and failed to relay the command "STOP" while the robot was sawing through the patient's chest. It was all the way through to the operating table by the
  • Is interesting... but perhaps a more humanitarian use could be the one that sees doctors from rich countries able to assist with delicate operations in poor countries where the needed specialists skills are simply too rare ?

    As for all the "risks of the web" posts... my logic is much like with the side-effects of a drug that cures a terminal disease... when the other option is certain death - it's worth the risk.

  • 'Doctors Without Borders' [doctorswit...orders.org] is going to be giving up their domain sooner than they anticipated...
    • not really since this will allow for DWB to pull off even more tricky operations. you still would need some local staff to do some of the more common things

      1 remove critters from the OR
      2 remove the folks with guns from the OR
      3 basic stitching and bandaging
      4 making sure the patient is at a correct level of consciousness

      its not like they are at the level of "Please state the nature of the Medical Emergency"

  • How often to surgeons need to do this? I'm definitely no expert, but I always thought majour surgery was generally planned a while in advance, which would allow time for travel. Is it only emergencies where this would be really useful?

    • 3rd world, doctor could volunteer from any wear to do surgery. space, the Antarctic. during an emergency - eg. thousand injured, doctors from around the world could work continually on one/multiple machine(s). specialist for you surgery - some case there only a hand full of doctors world wide and patients can be moved, the machine would save try to fly those doctors every were. there are numerous reasons, except in first world hospital dealing with standard day today surgeries.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 30, 2010 @03:05AM (#32041798)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_to_live

  • I just hope the Internet connection and electricity on both sides don't accidentally vanish. The more I think about this innovation, the more I get worried about possible outcomes of some piece of communication or electricity going awry. No, I don't fancy being a patient of such a contrivance.
    • I work in the film industry. we have directors working from over seas - to our local studio directing actors and so forth. we have two completely separate uplinks in case on goes down (fibre sea cables and satellite). our back up generators take 15 seconds to kick in and ups normally hold the machines up for more more than 2 minutes with ease. there are no lives on the line over here and we mange to keep the systems up.
  • So who're they going to sue if the thing goes offline? Should all network engineers for major medical facilities ask for larger risk remuneration, or just quit their jobs now?
  • by rodch (37782)

    Says it all, no?

  • The whole operating remotely thing has interesting potential for allowing specialist surgeons to operate on patients from a distance and therefore make possible operations that might not have been possible for that patient.

    However in this case the reason was because the patient was being x-rayed during the operation to allow the surgeon to see where the catheter was in the heart.

    Repeated and prolonged exposure to x-rays, even low levels, is not a good thing so surgeons normally have to wear lead aprons to p

  • ....... carrier lost. is the real deal.
  • Imagine, instead, your insurance company not paying for an expensive local doctor but will pay for medical outsourcing from a surgical clearing house in India somewhere.

    We didn't want to believe it when they commoditized IT services and shipped them overseas. Now they will want to do it with medicine.

  • So does anyone know what the advantage of doing the procedure via remote control would be? I mean, if it works fine with the doctor in the room, why another layer of abstraction? Seems as though complications that could arise during surgery would discourage this sort of thing.
    • by tehcyder (746570)
      I can't believe that they set up all this additional complication just because the surgeon was too fucking lazy to walk to the next room!
  • by St.Creed (853824) on Friday April 30, 2010 @05:25AM (#32042316)

    " Imagine a doctor in London performing surgery on your heart in New York!"

    Yeah, that might happen. Or it might just go the way things already are moving and see some outsourcing to China and India. Which wouldn't have to be all that bad, since (a) you get Western hygiene and staff during the operation and while recovering, and you (may/might) get the benefit of a doctor who treats 10 patients a day and is really, really experienced. This is actually a good reason for Chinese people in The Netherlands to go to China for certain procedures, like operations on joints and other non-life threatening stuff. Whereas a Dutch doctor might treat a few patients a week with and never see arare complication, his Chinese colleague will treat a dozen a day and is likely to have handled that complication several times in the last month. And in this type of surgery, experience matters.

    Where I see most use for this though, is to get an expert online for a very difficult surgery, who does the really tricky stuff then leaves the opening and closing procedures to the staff at hand. I think the military might be the biggest users for this type of machinery.

  • I doubt that trans-atlantic surgery would ever catch on. Remote surgeries in little burgs, maybe.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    London to New York surgery? That's not cost effective enough ! I think New Delhi-New York offers much better value proposition. Would you like this week special? Kidney transplant only $29.99. And they could have surgery pods in Walmart with direct connection to "top" offshore surgeons !!

  • by demonlapin (527802) on Friday April 30, 2010 @06:20AM (#32042534) Homepage Journal
    There are several things to note here::
    • This is a heart catheterization, not an open procedure.
    • The surgeon is present to perform the vascular access and leaves the room only to avoid the frankly huge amounts of radiation necessary to perform the procedure.
    • It's not done over the Internet.
    • You can't do this remotely because you still need a surgeon and anesthesiologist on site (remember, the surgeon has to get into the vessel in the first place, and if anything goes wrong, he's going to have to run upstairs to do emergency heart surgery). This thing isn't mobile in any common sense of the word.
  • This may sound like a winner now, but just wait until they start outsourcing your surgeries to sweat shops in China.
  • In 2008 a story was posted on slashdot [slashdot.org] about a woman getting brain surgery remotely in Calgary Alberta Canada. And here's a story in SciAm [scientificamerican.com] about remote surgery done across the Atlantic ocean between NY and Strasbourg France in 2001.

  • "Imagine a doctor in London performing surgery on your heart in New York!"

    ....And imagine that backhoe operator on the outskirts of town who "don't need no stinkin' utility markers...."
    ];)

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