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Woman receives long-distance surgery by robotic arms

By Zhou Wenting in Shanghai | China Daily | Updated: 2023-07-27 09:29
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Lying in an operating room in Yinchuan, Ningxia Hui autonomous region in Northwest China, a 50-year-old patient surnamed Wang underwent a hysterectomy on Tuesday that was performed by a doctor in Shanghai, more than 2,000 kilometers away.

As Doctor Hua Keqin from the Obstetrics and Gynecology Hospital of Fudan University manipulated the robotic arms of a surgical robot in Shanghai, the arms received the instructions and transmitted the data in real-time to robotic arms in the operating room in the People's Hospital of Ningxia. The arms in Ningxia perfectly replicated every movement of her hands.

"I could feel that the robotic arms in Ningxia move as though I was literally operating them at the scene. It was perfectly simultaneous. There was little bleeding throughout the surgery," she said.

The robotic arms completed the surgery in two hours.

The Shanghai hospital said it was the first ultra remote, minimally invasive surgery to be assisted by domestically produced surgical robots and 5G and artificial intelligence technologies in Shanghai.

"If patients traveled from Yinchuan to our hospital, it could take them many hours to arrive. But now, with information technology and smart healthcare innovation, we have successfully achieved breakthroughs in conducting difficult gynecological surgeries across great distances," said Jiang Hua, president of the Shanghai hospital.

"It has helped promote the expansion of high-quality medical resources and allowed patients in remote areas to access an equal standard of medical service in their hometowns," he said.

Wang had been affected by growths in her uterus for eight years, and she hoped to be treated by a prominent doctor in a big city. The technologies of surgical robots, 5G and AI helped her realize her wish while sparing her the inconvenience of long-distance travel.

The surgical robot used was the Toumai Laparoscopic Surgical Robot developed by Shanghai MicroPort MedBot. It uses teleoperation technology and enables surgeons to sit outside of the aseptic surgery area to conduct operations.

Approved in China last year, the domestic device has completed around 800 surgeries in nearly 40 hospitals nationwide. The surgeries included highly difficult and complex procedures in the chest, abdominal and pelvic cavities.

The Shanghai hospital has completed nearly 1,000 surgeries assisted by domestic and imported surgical robots to treat tumors and other diseases.

Doctors said that the robots magnify the field of vision 10 to 15 times for the surgeons, and allow them to have a better understanding of the space and distance of the surgical site with three-dimensional, high-definition images. The robotic arms can also filter out tremors from human hands to improve accuracy.

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