US doctors in Texas will soon control a robot operating on patients in Shenzhen

Lucy Liu July 3, 2013 11:00am

Patients in Shenzhen who want medical attention from American doctors will no longer have to fly halfway around the world to get it.

Under a new agreement, US doctors will be able to control advanced robots at Shenzhen People’s Hospital to perform surgery remotely.  The deal is between the hospital in Shenzhen and the Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas, and also covers cooperation and the training of medical staff.

The biggest part of the deal, though, centers around the ability of US-based doctors to conduct surgical operations on Shenzhen-based patients.  Methodist Hospital boasts some of the most advanced surgical apparatus in the world, such as these surgical robots, Shenzhen Economic Daily reports.

The robot, courtesy of U.S. Health.

US Health News described the robot, which resembles an oversized carpet cleaner, in this July 2009 article:

Robots are increasingly making their mark in the operating room, too. Originally approved for general abdominal procedures like gallbladder removal, robotic surgery—the surgeon manipulates computer controls rather than a scalpel—is now used for heart and prostate cancer surgery, gynecologic procedures, and bariatric surgery, among others. With the help of a tiny camera inserted through an incision “port,” a surgeon can see the surgical field onscreen as he sits at a console in the operating room, from which he guides the robot’s instruments, also inserted through ports.

Someday, the doctor guiding the robot could be sitting at a console literally across the world from the patient. If remote surgery eventually becomes commercially available, many lives might be saved in hard-to-reach locations, from remote islands to battlefields.

Sun Tong, who is responsible for international affairs at the Methodist Hospital, said the hospital has four surgical robots in operation.

Yang Song, President of Shenzhen People’s Hospital, revealed that some staff have been selected to learn English and train in Houston. They are expected to start flying out this year.

The Methodist Hospital performed its first operation remotely through the use of a robot in 2004, and it was a success. There’s no word on when the robots will be deployed in Shenzhen.