In what is said to be the world's first successful long-distance operation, a team of New York surgeons, using a remote controlled robot, assisted a team of surgeons in France to remove the gall bladder of a 68-year-old woman.
The robotical surgical system, called Zeus, is manufactured by high-tech medical device provider Computer Motion, for what it calls "the new world of possibilities in minimally invasive surgery (MIS)."
According to Computer Motion, Zeus will help decrease patient pain and trauma, and shorten periods of convalescence.
"It's a phenomenal step and we can't even begin to imagine the implications for medicine," Jacques Marescaux, the surgeon who conducted the operation, said during a news conference.
Michel Gagner, chief of laparoscopic surgery at Mount Sinai hospital in New York and one of the doctors participating in the operation, said, however, "it will take some time to realise the impact of this."
Computer Motion said that using the Zeus system, surgeons have greater dexterity and precision.
The system includes two holding instruments and another containing a laparoscope, a tiny camera embedded in a flexible tube.
With Zeus, the surgeon controls the instrument handles and views the operative site on a monitor. With a computer interface, the surgical instruments replicate the surgeon's actions at the site in real time, the company said.
The robot responds to verbal commands like 'move up' or 'move down' and can warn the medical team if it runs out of surgical tape or other materials.
The operation took place at the European Institute for TeleSurgery in Strasbourg.
France Telecom donated a transatlantic communication link that used ATM technology to transmit the data.
The operation took less than an hour and the patient was discharged from the hospital 48 hours later.
A paper on the operation will be published in the 27 September issue of the journal Nature.
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