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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 14:01 GMT 15:01 UK
Doctors claim world first in telesurgery
Telesurgical operation Nature
The operation was guided by a surgeon thousands of miles from the patient
The first major trans-Atlantic telesurgical operation has been carried out.

Doctors in the United States removed a gall bladder from a patient in eastern France by remotely operating a surgical robot arm.

The procedure could make it possible for a surgeon to perform an operation on a patient anywhere in the world.

It lays the foundations for the globalisation of surgical procedures

Professor Jacques Marescaux
Doctors at the European Institute of Telesurgery in Strasbourg say the procedure was successful and there were no complications.

The patient, a 68-year-old woman, was discharged two days after the operation.

To operate on the patient in France, a surgeon working from New York controlled the arm of a surgical robot.

Two medical teams were involved, linked by a video and a high-speed fibre-optic line.

'Safe' time lag

A round distance of more than 14,000 kilometres (8,700 miles) separated the two medical teams.

The time delay between the surgeon's movements and the return video image displayed on screen was less than 200 milliseconds. The estimated safe lag time is 330 ms.

Professor Jacques Marescaux, who led the team, said the operation ushered in "the third revolution we've seen in the field of surgery in the past 10 years".

"It lays the foundations for the globalisation of surgical procedures, making it possible to imagine that a surgeon could perform an operation on a patient anywhere in the world," he added.

Step forward

Telesurgery is of growing interest to the medical world.

In June, patients at Rome's Policlinico Casilino University underwent minor telesurgery guided by experts at the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, US.

Fourteen patients were given a laparoscopy, where a small "telescope" was inserted into the body. Minor kidney surgery was then carried out on some of these patients.

Details of the Strasbourg operation, which goes one step further, were revealed on Wednesday in the scientific journal Nature.

Telesurgical operation Nature
The view in Strasbourg
The BBC's Richard Black
"Telesurgery could revolutionise medicine"
See also:

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