Medical Minute: Surgery From Miles Away?

In the middle of a California desert, doctors perform a revolutionary surgical procedure. The simulated patient is in one place and the surgeon is in another, operating through a robot!

"No one's ever put a robot out in the desert, so we're the first."

Surgeon Timothy Broderick initially operates from a few miles away in Simi Valley, then tests the technology a few thousand miles away in Seattle.

Timothy Broderick, MD, Robotic Surgeon, said, "We will be able to operate no matter where the patient is."

A prototype plane provides the communication link instead of satellites, which can take too long.

Timothy Broderick, MD, adds, "For example, you watch a TV interview and someone's over in Iraq, and we're here in the states, they have to wait for a second to hear the question and then answer. We can't do that if we're operating on somebody."

The plane allows the video to come up with minimal delay, so Broderick can guide the robotic arms.

An engineering team at the University of Washington designed the compact robot.

Blake Hannaford, PhD, Electrical Engineer, said, "There's a lot of cutting-edge technology, and each piece has to be working for the whole system to work."

They hope this will be a way to treat soldiers and astronauts with trauma injuries but say the general public could also benefit.

Timothy Broderick added, "Obviously if it works on the battlefield or up in space, it's going to work down here on the ground. The spinoffs are amazing."

Like using it in rural areas or during natural disasters. Broderick says there are some glitches to resolve, but this could be the surgery of the 21st century.

For more information, contact:

Amanda Harper
(513) 604-3308