HANGZHOU, April 12 (Xinhua) -- Aided by a 5G-powered robotic surgery technology, a surgeon has successfully removed the inflamed gallbladder of a female patient residing thousands of miles away in northwest China.
The remarkably efficient long-distance surgery was completed in just 30 minutes on Feb. 16.
Liang Xiao carried out the procedure using a robot console at Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital in Hangzhou, capital of east China's Zhejiang Province. Meanwhile, the patient was in a hospital in the city of Alaer in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, nearly 5,000 km from the surgeon's location.
"When I made instructions from the operating platform, the four-arm endoscopic robot at the hospital in Alaer responded in sync," Liang said. The surgery proceeded seamlessly, with a negligible lag between the surgeon and the device, he added.
This surgery not only cured the ailment that had been plaguing the patient for days but also demonstrated how this lightning-fast wireless technology can provide patients in remote regions of China with more access to high-quality medical services.
Hospitals in some inland regions, far from the eastern coastal regions rich in medical resources, face a shortage of well-trained personnel and advanced equipment.
Patients from far-flung areas who suffer from critical illnesses often face significant challenges and time constraints when it comes to traveling to big cities for treatment. As a result, local hospitals would usually seek the assistance of prominent doctors from leading medical centers to conduct surgeries to cater to the needs of their patients.
However, this entire process is equally arduous for medical staff. Previously, doctors in Hangzhou had to travel nearly nine hours by air followed by another 30-minute bus ride to reach the hospital in Alaer. Thanks to the surgical technology enabled by 5G, this problem can now be effectively addressed.
Liang began to undergo training on robotic operations in 2015 and has completed 606 minimally invasive operations assisted by robots so far, holding the provincial record for hepatobiliary and pancreatic robotic surgeries.
"Gallbladder removal is now a routine surgery for us," Liang said. Apart from training doctors, his hospital has also accumulated rich experiences in developing medical tools for remote operations. Liang and his colleagues were part of a research project involving the 5G robot used in the surgery, in which they offered clinical suggestions and carried out animal trials.
China Telecom has provided technical support for this robotic surgical procedure, with its Xinjiang branch assisting in the establishment of operation rooms with 5G coverage.
Chinese medical robot manufacturers are currently working to improve the technology to further break the limit of space. Liu Yu, executive vice president of Shanghai MicroPort MedBot Group, the maker of the 5G robot used in the surgery, said the engineers at the company plan to test their robot products in Tibet and other high-altitude regions with challenging environmental conditions.
The 5G technology could save time for both the doctors and the patients and enhance treatment efficiency, according to Cai Xiujun, president of the Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital, which is affiliated with Zhejiang University School of Medicine.
But the biggest advantage will be having specialists from top hospitals assist more doctors from distant areas. With well-trained local staff, patients can avail timely medical consultations at lower costs at clinics near their homes, Cai added. ■