Telesurgery via 5G: Access to quality care for all?
On April 3, Chinese cardiologist Huiming Guo led the procedure for a 41-year-old woman with a congenital heart defect. The doctor was in the Guangdong General Hospital in Guangzhou, while the patient was in the Gaozhou People’s Hospital, about 400 kilometers away.
Before the procedure, Guo’s team had developed a surgical plan based on a 3D model of the patient’s heart. This model was produced by artificial intelligence using medical imagery such as computed tomography and MRI scans. It was then 3D printed.
The surgeon and his colleagues gave instructions via video conference in 4K resolution. The operation lasted 4 hours.
“Advanced Internet technology can save our doctors a lot of time because they don’t have to travel as much. They can use this time to save more lives, ”Zhiwei Zhang said at the Guangdong General Hospital at a press conference.
The 5G network used by the hospital is 10 times faster than the 4G mobile internet currently in use, which has resulted in more stable streaming.
But this is not the first remote operation:
Recently, a surgical robot has been used to insert a deep brain stimulation implant into a person with Parkinson’s disease. The surgeon and the patient were located across China.
On the other hand, a hospital in Barcelona and one in Munich have also planned to test 5G-assisted surgeries before 2020.
Besides China, many countries have tested 5G, such as US, UK, Brazil, Sweden, and Korea. Most of them plan to roll out 5G widely over the next two years.
The solution to the problem of isolated regions
In many remote areas, surgeons often have to perform surgeries in specialties for which they are not trained. Therefore, it would be useful to be able to receive clear instructions from experts, regardless of their location, in order to compensate for this lack of training.
One of the main advantages of 5G is its reduction in signal transmission delay, from 20 to 80 milliseconds with 4G to around 1 millisecond with 5G.
Such a decrease is less when there are human doctors at both ends, but it will make a huge difference in telesurgery, when a doctor is operating remotely with a robot. This is what the future of healthcare will look like, Guy says.