Magazine article The Futurist

The Telesurgery Revolution: Telesurgeons Can Now Operate across Oceans and Continents. (Technology)

Magazine article The Futurist

The Telesurgery Revolution: Telesurgeons Can Now Operate across Oceans and Continents. (Technology)

Article excerpt

On September 7, 2001, a 68-year-old woman in Strasbourg, France, had her gall bladder removed by surgeons operating via computer from New York. It was the first complete telesurgery procedure performed by surgeons nearly 4,000 miles away from their patient.

"We can now extend the reach of the surgeon so that an expert can intervene any place in the world," says Jacques Marescaux, a professor at the European Institute of Telesurgery.

In New York, Marescaux teamed up with surgeon Michel Gagner to perform the historic long-distance operation. A high-speed fiber-optic service deployed by France Telecom made the connection between New York and Strasbourg. The two surgeons controlled the instruments using an advanced robotic surgical system, designed by Computer Motion Inc., that enabled the procedure to be minimally invasive. The patient was released from the hospital after about 48 hours and resumed normal activity the following week.

The high-speed fiber-optic connection between New York and France made it possible to overcome a key obstacle to telesurgery: time delay. It was crucial that a continuous time delay of less than 200 milliseconds be maintained throughout the operation, between the surgeon's movements in New York and the return video (from Strasbourg) on his screen. The delay problem includes video coding/decoding and signal transmission time.

France Telecom's engineers achieved an average time delay of 150 milliseconds. …

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