Robot performs surgery

That’s pretty cool in itself but robots have been assisting surgery for almost 20 years now.  What is new: the human surgeons in charge of the operation were over 30 kilometres away.

As a tech geek, that’s fascinating… as a gamer, slightly terrifying as I know all about latency delays.  But most significantly, as a human, it’s very exciting and it shows how fast technology is progressing and how robotics are the next giant step in improved quality of life.

Cardiologists from the Apex Heart Institute in India performed the surgery successfully on 5 patients with coronary artery disease (CAD).  I should disclaim at this point that I’m definitely not a doctor but what I can tell you is:   CAD is a condition caused by damaged arteries reducing blood-flow to the heart and is one of the most common cardiovascular diseases – the number one cause of death globally.  The robot placed a device to open the blood vessels and restore blood-flow.

While the technology itself already exists, the infrastructure to support it definitely doesn’t yet in New Zealand.  The connection quality needs to be perfect – you certainly can’t afford to disconnect due to poor weather or lag because Timmy down the road is 6 hours deep into a Netflix marathon.  However, many places will soon have both ultra-fast fibre and 5G mobile networks offering some redundancy which may make it feasible.

The problem is that the most useful application for remote surgeries such as this appear to be in remote places without local specialists – the last places to get the networks required.  It is plausible that once this is resolved leading surgeons overseas could operate remotely on patients in Hokitika.

On the other hand, what is really exciting about this breakthrough is that it’s a step towards Artificial Intelligence (AI) robots performing entire surgeries.  At present, the robots assists a human surgeon by providing smaller, more dexterous “hands” but all the decisions are made by the surgeon.  Some surgeons predict that within 30 years AI will have advanced enough to perform the entire surgery unassisted with improved patient outcomes.

Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.