BY SILVI WRITER
Surgeons in China have been using 5G internet to do surgeries from far away, demonstrating how much the new generation networks could benefit other industries.
In medicine, it could help bring top-level healthcare to people in remote areas, or to critical patients that can’t be shifted. 5G has much less latency than 4G, making it not only easier to keep pace with remotely manipulated instruments, but also a faster process in general.
Using it, doctors at the best of hospitals can attend to patients in need hundreds of miles away, without having to uproot themselves.
Cardiac endoscopic surgery
Surgeons in the southern Chinese city of Gaozhou successfully conducted cardiac endoscopic surgery with help from experts 400 km away via a 5G wireless network on Apr 3.
The surgery was performed on a 41-year-old female patient suffering from congenital heart disease and lasted nearly four hours.
The entire process was transmitted via live feed to an expert team in Guangdong Provincial People’s Hospital, located in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong Province.
The 5G wireless network, which offered a transmission speed 10 times faster than a 4G service, was stable throughout the surgery, according to technicians.
Guo Huiming, head of the expert team, monitored the whole process on a large screen, which also showed the patient’s vital signs and a model of her heart generated by virtual reality (VR) technology.
At one point, Guo instructed the chief surgeon in Gaozhou to move the cutting point 3 cm upward to avoid harming the nerve.
A hospital in Guangzhou, the capital city of South China’s Guangdong province, launched chest surgery with the help of 5G technology on Apr 1, the first time in the province.
The operation, connected live to another hospital in northern Guangdong’s remote Yangshan county, promoted the use of advanced 5G technology in medical practice.
The surgery, led by Wang Wenlin, a chest surgery expert at the Guangdong Provincial Second People’s Hospital, was seen as a demonstration for doctors at the hospital in Yangshan.
“A growing number of hospitals in China have been inviting me to give instructions in chest surgery. With the help of 5G technology, the surgery technology will help more doctors and hospitals launch similar operations,” Wang said.
Wang visited 28 hospitals last year, helping doctors with surgery for chest deformities via his latest invention in treating a deformity called funnel chest.
Also on Monday, the hospital in Yangshan joined hands with doctors in Guangzhou to perform pelvicfracture surgery with the help of 5G technology communications.
Before the surgery on Monday, the Guangdong Provincial Second People’s Hospital had signed a cooperation agreement with China Telecom Corporation Limited and Huawei Technologies Co to build a smart medical service system.
“In the future, we will offer more medical practices online with the help of the 5G technology, in remote demonstrations of surgeries,” said Tian Junzhang, president of the Guangdong Provincial Second People’s Hospital.
Brain surgery / Parkinson’s
A surgeon in China used 5G to perform the world’s first remote brain surgery on Mar 16. He used camera systems and remotely operated equipment to perform surgery on a patient’s brain from over 3,000 km away.
Dr Ling Zhipei, with Chinese PLA General Hospital, was performing the surgery from Sanya City in Hainan, while his patient was in Beijing.
The procedure involved giving the patient, who has Parkinson’s, a deep brain stimulation (DBS) implant. The surgery lasted for about three hours.
“I take turns working in Beijing and Hainan, and the operation took place during my Hainan rotation,” Lin said. “A patient with Parkinson’s in Beijing needed surgery and couldn’t fly to Hainan. The 5G network has solved problems like video lag and remote control delay experienced under the 4G network, ensuring a nearly real-time operation. And you barely feel that the patient is 3,000 kilometers away.”
The patient has recovered from the surgery and is reportedly “feeling good”.
On Mar 12, a complicated hepatic operation was done in a hospital in Shenzhen under the real-time instructions of an expert in Beijing, thanks to the high-definition images transmitted through live-streaming enabled by the high-speed 5G Internet.
Originally, the Shenzhen People’s Hospital, where the operation was conducted, sought on-site surgical planning and guidance from Dong Jiahong, an internationally renowned hepatic surgeon based in Tsinghua Chang Gung Hospital in Beijing, as the surgery was too difficult for local doctors to handle.
But thanks to the low latency, large bandwidth and high reliability of the 5G Internet transmission, Dong was able to supervise the real-time situation in the operation room 2,200 kilometers away in Shenzhen and give instructions.
Before that, the doctors in the two hospitals had jointly conducted an online assessment of the patient and completed the accurate design of the surgery.
“The advent of the 5G era has enabled doctors to carry out remote multi-party preoperative planning and surgical collaboration,” Dong said, as restrictions on time and space are broken.
The remote surgery powered by 5G technology is one of the latest attempts of people working in different sectors. Its success has paved the way for future relevant research and bridged the gap of medical resource imbalance among different regions.