Florida Hospital doctors test virtual 'telesurgery'

Surgeons face difficulty with long distance surgeries after 300 miles

ORLANDO, Fla. - Long distance surgeons using state-of-the-art robotics may be able to perform procedures on patients in an operating room 1 to 300 miles away, within the next decade.

But in virtual surgery experiments being conducted at Florida Hospital, it appears doctors will be faced with subtle delays as the distance between surgeon and patient increases beyond 300 miles.

Dr. Roger Smith, Florida Hospital's chief technology officer, is testing physicians with virtual video systems to create "latency" or time delays as they perform skill and virtual surgery tests.

Smith says the delays are subtle but in real time surgery, he says, there is no room for mistakes.

"Below 200 milliseconds we see they (physicians) don't notice there is a lag, above 500 milliseconds, we see them struggling and even failing," Smith said.

The $90,000 simulators, called Mimic, are far less expensive than the sophisticated DaVinci Robots currently used for surgery in several medical institutions, including Florida Hospital.

"Robotic surgical performance" has been effective in the current theatre of 30 feet or less but the internet presents a source for long distance even global surgery," Smith said. "At some point the surgeon will notice his movements are not responding as quickly as he used to."

Dr. Joseph Boyle, a top cardio and robotics surgeon, found some of the tests challenging and says he views them as an important first step in making telesurgery a reality.

"When you start adding in that latency it is a different ball game," Boyle said.

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