A doctor in India has performed a series of five percutaneous coronary intervention (PCI) procedures on patients who were 20 miles away from him. The feat was accomplished using a precision vascular robot developed by Corindus. The results of the surgeries, which were successful, have just been published in EClinicalMedicine, a spin-off of the medical journal The Lancet.
The feat is an example of telemedicine, an emerging field that leverages advances in networking, robotics, mixed reality, and communication technologies to beam medical experts to remote locations for everything from consultations to surgical procedures. Telemedicine, which could decentralize health care by distributing physicians to local communities virtually, could relieve nursing and physician shortages and potentially cut health costs. In France, people are already visiting telemedicine booths for fast, convenient health care. During the recent Ebola crisis, the University of Virginia is providing assistance in some parts of Africa through telemedicine.
Surgery is considered the last frontier of the still young field. Robots are now commonly used in surgical procedures around the world, but always under the watchful eye of a surgeon in the operating room. Theoretically, some surgical procedures currently performed with robots could be done remotely without significantly changing the procedure.
But distance presents challenges, including connectivity issues and latency. A mid-procedure network outage could be catastrophic.
All this makes the feat achieved last year by interventional cardiology chairman Dr. Tejas Patel of the Apex Hear Institute in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, India, the most impressive.
“I am honored to have been a part of this medical milestone,” stated Dr. Patel. “The application of telerobotics for remote treatment has the potential to impact a significant number of lives by providing access to specialized care that would not otherwise be possible. I am pleased to share my experience with the clinical community in such a respected publication that is part of the Lancet family,” added Dr. Patel.
During remote procedures, Dr. Patel uses Corindus’ CorPath GRX robot and a wired Internet connection, manipulating the robot with a set of joysticks and a video monitor. Corindus has performed several remote test cases in the U.S. since, but Dr. Patel’s procedure marked an important milestone in medicine.
Interestingly, the first transatlantic telesurgery was performed in September 2001 when Professor Jacques Marescaux and his team performed a minimally invasive cholecystectomy on a 68-year-old female patient in eastern France. That transatlantic feat was dubbed “Operation Lindbergh”.