Johns Hopkins Doctors Perform Telesurgeries on Patients in Rome
Specialists at the Baltimore, Md.-based Johns Hopkins School of Medicine performed 17 remote surgeries on patients in Rome between September 1998 and July 2000, Hopkins researchers reported last week at a meeting of the American Urological Association. Using telecommunications and videoconferencing equipment, Hopkins physicians guided robotic arms performing procedures on patients at Rome's Policlinico Casilino University. Researchers said all the procedures were successfully completed without complications. However, in seven of the 17 surgeries physicians decided to sever the telesurgical connection and let surgeons in Rome complete the surgeries without further guidance from their American colleagues. During another operation, physicians experienced difficulties with the manual control for the robotic equipment. Fourteen of the surgeries were laparoscopic, meaning that the surgery was performed through a small incision, guided by a small fiber-optic viewing device. Project participants noted that learning to operate the robotic system required extensive physician training. Despite complications, Hopkins physicians said that if robotics technology continues to improve, there may be more surgeons "sitting at a console switching from one surgery to another around the world" (Reuters, 6/5).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.