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Remote-Controlled Robot Successfully Completes Heart Operation

Surgery, by definition, has always been a hands-on endeavor. It gets messy, it gets fleshy, and it definitely gets a doc's hands dirty. But all that may soon change, thanks to a new, robotic procedure that doesn't even require a surgeon be in the same room as the patient.

Dr. Andre Ng, a consultant cardiologist and electrophysiologist at Glenfield Hospital in the U.K., recently became the first person in the world to successfully complete a heart rhythm operation using a remote-controlled robot. Using a device known as a Remote Catheter Manipulation System, Ng was able to complete the procedure on a 70-year-old British man without ever setting foot inside the operating room. After the man's heartbeat returned to normal within a mere hour, Ng told Reuters, "[The procedure] exceeded our expectations and we achieved what we set out to in very good time." Despite not actually being next to his patient, Ng said he felt "complete control" over the situation, thanks in large part to the fact that he could see and speak to the medical staff who were present.

Remote-controlled, robotic operations have become increasingly common in some of the world's wealthier nations, and Ng is hopeful that the trend could become a lot more pervasive. "I think it would certainly be possible in future to do this from another city, or further away -- all that's required is a reliable link between your remote controller, where the operator is, and the robotic arm, where the patient is," Ng said. "If there is a reliable enough link, then you could do it from any location in the world."

For doctors, the main benefit of the technique is that they don't have to wear the heavy radiation shields normally required in operating rooms. And, when the operation is especially long or complex, fatigue can set in, and the risk of radioactive exposure can increase. In the long run, though, the real beneficiaries of remote-controlled surgeries would likely be the people in most dire need. If this kind of technology could ever make its way to a country like Angola, where the medical infrastructure is top-notch but trained medical professionals are few, doctors may be able to fill in the gap from afar, and offer solutions to people with the most serious of problems. [From: ABC]

Tags: britain, GlenfieldHospital, health, heart, heart rate, HeartRate, medicine, remote, RemoteControl, robot, robots, science, surgery, top