Telesurgery May Be Closer Than You Think

Advancements in data connectivity and surgical robotics are making remote surgery a near-term reality.

Amanda Pedersen

June 21, 2024

2 Min Read
Graphic illustration of remote robotic surgery with surgeon operating on a patient over a long distance using robotic surgery technology.
Image credit: Nadezda Sheveleva / iStock via Getty Images

Imagine having knee replacement surgery in Austin, TX, while your surgeon performs the operation from New York. The capabilities have already been proven in a cadaver study.

Darren Porras, market development manager at Real-Time Innovations (RTI) talked about such capabilities during an MD+DI webinar on May 21, "From Open Surgery to Digital Surgery: How Robotics, AI, and Data are Shaping the Future of Healthcare."

It might seem like telesurgery, or remote surgery, is still many years from having a real impact on healthcare, but that's not necessarily the case, according to Porras.

"I would say we're closer than you think, which is exciting," he said. "...I think that there are certain applications that are more challenging than others."

For example, Porras said soft tissue surgery is more challenging than orthopedic surgery because tissue can move and change shape in the operating environment, making it less predictable. Most orthopedic procedures, on the other hand, involve a rigid structure like bone, and there is pre-operative imaging data to follow.

"So I think those procedures lend [themselves] more naturally I think first to a remote surgery," Porras said.

RTI's technology was used in a in a cadaver demonstration between New York and and Austin, TX with the subject more than 2,000 miles from the surgeon.

"And the surgeon was saying 'it's literally like I'm right at the bedside,' that was the performance that they were getting," Porras said. "So, to be able to have a less qualified person that is capable at the bedside with the remote surgeon able to perform that surgery remotely ... that is a huge enabler for the access to healthcare that's so desperately needed today so people can get the healthcare that they need when they need it."

There are some obvious challenges to overcome in order for telesurgery to be effective, of course. Latency in data transmission must be minimized to milliseconds to ensure immediate data processing and system response; reliability of both local and remote systems and their integration is essential; and cybersecurity protections must be a high priority.

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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