Gallbladder surgery done at long distance with 5G
With the help of a 5G-powered robot, a hospital in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province successfully removed a gallbladder on Thursday from a patient in the city of Aral, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, some 4,650 kilometers away.
It was China's first ultra-long-distance gallbladder removal conducted through a robot using 5G technology.
Both the core software and the core hardware of the robot, a four-arm endoscopic model, were developed in China, said Liang Xiao, an experienced surgeon who carried out the operation through the robot's operating platform at Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital affiliated with the Medical School of Zhejiang University.
"I feel quite happy for the patient," said Liang. "And I am very proud to do the surgery with a robot system that has been independently researched and produced in China."
The patient, a woman in her 30s who lives in Aral, was diagnosed with gallstones over a year ago without apparent symptoms, but began to experience pains in her upper right abdomen a week ago. Examinations at a local hospital partnered with Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital revealed that she had developed acute inflammation of the gallbladder that required surgery as soon as possible.
After learning about robot-assisted surgery, the patient, whose full identity wasn't revealed to protect her privacy, opted for it.
For an on-site surgery in Aral, where medical resources and expertise are still lacking, specialists from Hangzhou usually need to take connecting flights and travel for eight and a half hours by air first and then another 30 minutes by bus before they can reach the local hospital.
It is equally troublesome, if not more, for a patient to journey from a place like Aral to Hangzhou for the operation.
"Gallbladder removal is a routine surgery for us," said Liang, who finished the whole process in roughly half an hour. "How can we avoid all the hassle and serve patients' needs at the same time? The answer is a 5G-enabled robotic operation."
In recent years, the development and application of such technologies have received a lot of support. A "robotics+" action plan unveiled by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology and 16 other government departments has called for the promotion of robot-assisted remote operations powered by 5G, among a host of other application scenarios.
Long-distance robotic surgery can help break the limit of time and space, as well as the constraints of uneven resource distribution, said Cai Xiujun, president of the Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital, who watched the entire surgery at Aral hospital. It saves time for both the doctors and the patients, reduces economic costs and enhances treatment efficiency, he said.
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