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World’s first telerobotics-assisted surgery performed in Canada

St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton and North Bay General Hospital released details today of the world's first success...

March 4, 2003  

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St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton and North Bay General Hospital released details today of the world’s first successful hospital to hospital telerobotics-assisted surgery performed on Friday on a female patient.

Dr. Mehran Anvari, founding director of the Centre for Minimal Access Surgery (CMAS) at St. Joseph’s, successfully collaborated with Dr. Craig McKinley, a general surgeon at North Bay General Hospital, to complete a laparoscopic Nissen fundoplication (anti-reflux) surgery on the North Bay patient. The two locations are nearly 400 kilometres away from each other.

“Until today, CMAS has been using telehealth to mentor surgeons located in community health settings, but now we have taken this one step further,” said Dr. Anvari. “We now can successfully use a robot from a distance, to actually assist and perform part of the surgery if necessary. The implications of this are far reaching.”

Dr. McKinley said that with the challenge of attracting specialized surgeons to Canada’s northern communities, this technology "allows us" to provide necessary services close to home and family. “Telerobotics procedures are the next logical step in minimal access surgery to help ensure that communities have access to needed expertise," he said.

This event is the first in a series in collaborations between the two. The series is scheduled to demonstrate the safety and feasibility of telerobotics assisted surgery to extend the reach of expert health care to Canada’s remote populations.

While at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, Dr. Anvari used Computer Motion’s ZEUS Surgical System, which was connected and supported by Bell Canada’s Virtual Private Network Service to the system’s robotic ‘arms’ in North Bay General Hospital’s operating room.

Dr. Anvari’s hand, wrist, and finger movements were translated from the ZEUS console, with a delay of no longer than 150 milliseconds, to control the endoscopic camera in the abdominal cavity of the patient. At the patient’s side in North Bay, Dr. McKinley, a board-certified general surgeon who routinely performs laparoscopic surgery, positioned the robotically-controlled instruments and controlled the electrocautery energy source.

ZEUS was granted Class IV clearance by Health Canada this past October for cardiac surgery and telesurgery applications and received U.S. FDA clearance for general and laparoscopic surgery in September.

Last year, CMAS was awarded $1,000,000 by the Canadian Health Info-structure Partnership Program (CHIPP) to explore telehealth capabilities. The federal government agency is mandated with promoting telehealth and Web-based (electronic) medical records throughout the country in efforts to combat the exodus of northern physicians. Other partners supporting CMAS include the Ontario Government, Computer Motion, Bell Canada, Stryker Canada, and Johnson & Johnson.

The major benefits of minimal access surgery to patients are less pain and surgical trauma, shorter hospital stays and faster recovery. The use of robotics has advanced the development of minimal access procedures in numerous surgical areas by increasing the precision of the surgeon’s control of surgical instruments and decreasing normal human tremor and physical fatigue during surgery.

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