China just performed the world’s first remote neuro-surgery over 5G

WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF

Sometimes experts are based in other cities, and if you need access to a surgeon that can be a problem – but 5G and remote surgery solves that problem.

 

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By now you should be used to the idea of surgeons conducting remote surgery on patients hundreds of miles away from them using 5G networks and robot surgeons. Now, as more human surgeons become accustomed to the idea, and following on from several successful remote 5G surgery trials which include surgeons on India performing remote heart surgery, and surgeons in the US surgically implanting stents in patients, a patient suffering from Parkinson’s disease has received China’s first 5G based remote neuro-surgery with a Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) implant, according to local media.

 

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Chinese PLA General Hospital (PLAGH), with the help of China Mobile and Huawei, carried out the operation on Saturday and it was conducted by Ling Zhipei. The surgery lasted for about three hours.

Ling started the surgery at 9:00am in Sanya City, manipulating the surgical instruments 3,000 kilometers away in Beijing with micron precision on a computer through a 5G network, and successfully implanted the DBS.

“I feel good,” said the patient after the surgery.

“I take turns working in Beijing and Hainan, and the operation took place during my Hainan rotation. A patient with Parkinson’s in Beijing needed surgery and couldn’t fly to Hainan,” said Ling.

 

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“The 5G network has solved problems like video lag and remote control delay experienced under the 4G network, ensuring a nearly real-time operation. And you barely feel that the patient is 3,000 kilometers away.”

In the future it’s envisaged that high-quality and high-level experts from other hospitals will also be able to operate remotely on patients in remote areas via remote surgery, completing operations which were previously difficult to finish at the grassroots level hospitals, Ling added.

The success of the remote surgery has also helped China realise its overarching telemedicine goal, from remote observation, consultation, and guidance to operation.

As one of the most common diseases among the aging population, Parkinson’s disease is a brain disorder that leads to impairment of voluntary movements, as well as trembling, slowness and stiffness.

 

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There were 6.1 million individuals with Parkinson’s disease globally in 2016, compared with 2.5 million in 1990, according to a report published in The Lancet Neurology. Although there is no cure for the disease, DBS can be a life-changing treatment for some people.

A successful operation allows people to potentially reduce their medications and improve their quality of life. Also, this is not the first remote surgery successfully conducted with the support of 5G technology recently in China either.

Last Tuesday, a complicated hepatic operation was done in a hospital in Shenzhen under the real-time instructions of an expert in Beijing, thanks to the high-definition images transmitted through live-streaming enabled by 5G.

 

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Originally, the Shenzhen People’s Hospital, where the operation was conducted, sought on-site surgical planning and guidance from Dong Jiahong, an internationally renowned hepatic surgeon based in Tsinghua Chang Gung Hospital in Beijing, as the surgery was too difficult for local doctors to handle. But thanks to the low latency, large bandwidth, and high reliability of 5G Dong was able to supervise the real-time situation in the operation room 2,200 kilometers away in Shenzhen and give instructions.

Before the operation started the doctors in the two hospitals had jointly conducted an online assessment of the patient and completed the accurate design of the surgery.

“The advent of the 5G era has enabled doctors to carry out remote multi-party pre-operative planning and surgical collaboration,” Dong said, as restrictions on time and space are broken, “and this is just the beginning.”

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