A surgeon recently achieved the astonishing feat of remotely operating on a cadaver from a staggering distance of 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) away. The medical marvel, demonstrating the pinnacle of social distancing, was facilitated by robotic technology that the clinician operated via the 5G network.
The telesurgery, published in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, was able to be carried out from such a distance due to the high bandwidth of 5G. The fifth-generation technology was instrumental in enabling such a delicate procedure to be carried out from afar, operating on the vocal cords of a cadaver. Despite some wild and unfounded theories of adverse effects from 5G, there is little evidence that supports the idea that the technology is in any way harmful.
The ﬁrst telesurgery involving a human patient was carried out in 2001 when a patient in Strasbourg, France had a laparoscopic cholecystectomy undertaken by a surgeon operating remotely from New York. While an amazing feat that demonstrated that clinicians could operate without being in the same place as their patient, the available technologies weren't considered to be safe or reliable enough for wider use due to the lag in information being fed back to the operating surgeon. Slow connection speeds were a major concern as, in surgery, the capacity for the clinician to make quick decisions in response to changes in the patient's condition is crucial.
The invention of 5G and its far superior connectivity reassured the researchers that information could be fed back to the surgeon at an appropriate speed to render it effective, and so a clinician situated at Vodafone Village in Milan, Italy, used a novel, teleoperated surgical robotic system to perform surgery on the vocal cords of a cadaver. The cadaver was in an anatomy laboratory in the San Raffaele Hospital, approximately 15 kilometers northeast of where the surgeon was operating from. The resulting, successful surgery showed that the surgeon had effective control of the surgical robot, forceps, and laser enabling them to perform high-precision laser cordectomies on the cadaver's vocal cords.
If able to be replicated at greater distances, the surgical technique could become a key source of medical care for astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) for whom access to life-saving surgery is currently restricted should they fall ill while onboard. It was revealed earlier this year that an astronaut on the ISS had been diagnosed and treated for deep vein thrombosis, a blood clot in the internal jugular vein of their neck, by a doctor on the ground during a NASA mission – the first time this had ever been attempted.
Telesurgery could also provide faster aid to patients in areas struck by war, disease, or natural disasters and could help to prevent spread and keep clinicians safe when carrying out aerosol producing surgeries on patients with infectious diseases.