A surgeon in China performed the first remote brain surgery over a 5G network on a patient located more than 1,800 miles away.
Dr. Ling Zhipei, chief physician of the First Medical Center at China’s PLA General Hospital, performed the operation over the weekend using the 5G technology. The patient was suffering from Parkinson’s disease, so Dr. Zhipei and his team implanted a deep brain stimulation device in his brain, as electrical stimulation has been shown to help control symptoms of the condition.
The operation lasted about three hours and ended successfully, with the patient saying he felt good following the operation.
Robotic Remote Surgery
The key to the surgery’s success was the upgraded 5G network it was being performed on. A standard 4G network wouldn’t work for precise surgical operations because of some latencies issues that could develop in the audio and visual department. However, the Chinese technology giant Huawei was able to develop a 5G network with wider bandwidth and lower latency. Dr. Ling said the network provided an almost real-time connection and the distance from the patient was barely felt.
“The 5G network has solved problems like video lag and remote control delay experienced under the 4G network, ensuring a nearly real-time operation,” said Dr. Ling. “You barely feel that the patient is 3,000 kilometers away.”
Ling added that he wasn’t expecting to make history that day, he just got the call for surgery during his rotation and wasn’t able to meet with the patient in person.
“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,” he said.
5G remote robotic surgery could be a gamechanger for the field of neurosurgery and surgery in general. Assuming it becomes available to more hospitals in the near future, surgeons will be able to reach patients in serious situations with a shorter delay. Theoretically, doctors could operate on injured military members in a war zone from hundreds of miles away, or a patient who suffers devastating injuries during a car accident can get access to the world’s best surgeons from whatever hospital is closest. This is truly an innovation worth celebrating and watching as it hopefully becomes more readily available so we can best treat more patients.