We are breaking new ground on the medical field as the first surgery was performed through 5G technology approximately 30 meters away between the patient and the doctor.
Ubergizmo reports that the world’s first remote surgery equipment using 5G was successfully tested in China. The test involved a doctor in the southeastern province of Fujian. The patient was the unsuspecting laboratory rat, which the doctor had its liver removed from a remote location. 5G connection enabled the doctor to perform the surgery by controlling robotic surgical arms.
To perform surgery remotely, four things are required: a patient, a surgeon, he equipment, and a very fast and bulletproof internet connection. All of these are easy to find except the latter until 5G technology was introduced.
The advantage of using 5G network for remote surgery is the reduced latency, or lag, that it offers. Unlike the current 4G LTE, 5G is able to provide a 0.01 second latency rate, based on the surgery that was performed. It’s almost like doing the surgery in the actual room with a patient.
The lower the latency, the more responsive the surgery robot will be to the surgeon’s actions tens or hundreds of miles away. That in turn reduces the chances of mistakes being made.
Latency occurs when data is sent across a network, either via cables or wirelessly through cell towers, to a device or machine. The higher the latency, the longer those messages take to send. Fortunately, 5G technology is opening new realms by radically decreasing latency between data that is sent from a network to a device.
By lowering the latency to near instantaneous, 5G opens up new possibilities for existing technologies like augmented and virtual reality.
Performing the same procedure using a 4G connection would have caused greater latency rates and thus causing more harm than good. Mistakes may have been easily made with a much slower connection.
In numbers 4G LTE would average at 20 Mbps unlike 5G that would reach numbers such as 50 Gbps—that would be the equivalent of the first 5 seasons of Game of Thrones in a second.
What Does This Mean For Us?
5G technology opens so many possibilities that may innovate and improve the current global health care system. 5G has the possibility to literally save lives.
It will be a possibility for more trained and seasoned doctors to be present during major surgeries without the hassle of travel and time expenditure. The ability to be remotely guided by the best in certain medical fields during a vital surgery was unheard of before 5G.
Virtual presence and guidance can drastically decrease the rate of failures especially for more complicated operations. “5G will open up many new areas of application for which the previous mobile data transmission standard was simply not fast enough,” Dr Michael Kranzfelder, a senior physician at the Rechts der Isar Hospital, said during last year’s German Society of Surgery.
The Indpependent reports that in one of the auditoriums of the Mobile World Congress, Antonio de Lacy, head of the Department of gastrointestinal surgery and Coordinator of the colorectal cancer unit of the Hospital Clínic of Barcelona, and his medical team, did just that.
“Remote surgeon” is the name of the project that allowed the use of the Optimus operating room of the Clínic Hospital as a testbed. The surgeon specialist directed the surgery remotely in real time, without being physically present in the operating room. The surgeon, Raquel Bravo, was operating on the patient due to a disease in the colon. The images and the communication between the two sides were clear during the demonstration. The trial did not follow the entire operation but only a few moments.
The first remote surgery performed in China was the first of many and hopefully be ready for human surgeries in the near future. Unfortunately, due to the equipment upgrades required to get a real 5G network operating, developed nations will gain access to it first. Nevertheless, 5G technology will still provide doctors within the United States, Europe or developed APAC countries the flexibility and access to perform life-threatening surgeries from their labs.
Once 5G is more readily available, it will allow for surgeons to be on hand during disaster situations simply by deploying robots to the location.
Moreover, Dr Kranzfelder said that in the early stages of its development, remote robotic surgery would likely be regarded with the same critical eye as other potentially life-threatening technologies like autonomous driving.