American thoracic surgeons meet with SOCRATES, Computer Motion's tele-collaborative surgical robot

San Diego 08 May 2001During the 81st annual meeting of the American Association of Thoracic Surgery, Computer Motion Inc., a developer of medical robotics, previewed its SOCRATES Tele-collaborative System. The SOCRATES system combines Computer Motion's unique surgical robotics and Operating Room networking technology with video telecommunication equipment to enable a new method of remote surgical training and education.


"The speed with which an innovative and improved surgical procedure can be widely adopted is governed principally by the availability of competent surgeon mentors. Such mentors are constantly being asked to travel to various hospitals around the world, in order to teach others their new procedure. This collaborative process enables the transfer of surgical advancement to an increasingly larger segment of the population", stated Dr. Yulun Wang, founder and Chief Technical Officer of Computer Motion.

"This process of surgical training has been the only available method for decades and is very time-consuming, costly, and inefficient. SOCRATES represents a breakthrough technology that will enable a new form of remote surgical training and education which is far more cost-effective and efficient. We believe that SOCRATES will create a significant societal benefit by proliferating state-of-the-art surgical care faster and at a lower cost", explained Dr. Wang.

The SOCRATES system connects a remote surgeon to the Computer Motion HERMES Control Centre, providing the remote surgeon direct access to the operative environment and direct access to key patient information. Through HERMES, the remote advisor can check the status and control of a number of peripheral medical devices, such as the overhead camera and insufflator. SOCRATES also provides the remote surgeon with uncompromised operative visualisation and the additional potential to remotely control the position of the endoscope via Computer Motion's AESOP Endoscope Positioner.

For teaching, the technology augments the remote surgical advisor's dialogue with a telestration feature for annotation of a shared video image. This allows the advisor to further explain procedure details.

"With SOCRATES, for the first time a remote surgeon can be actively immersed into the operative environment for a truly effective and low-cost telecollaborative session", commented Dr. Ronald Merrell, Director of Surgery at Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, which served as beta testing site for the new technology. "A surgeon will now be able to connect with a remote expert anywhere in the world and at any time through Computer Motion's SOCRATES Network. The potential of this technology for surgeon training is really revolutionary", added Dr. Merrell.

"SOCRATES constitutes a huge step beyond sharing audio and video feedback via teleconference", stated Dr. Ken Harris, Chief of Surgery at London Health Sciences Centre, where the first SOCRATES human clinicals were performed in March 2001. "For the very first time, the mentoring surgeon is able to actively participate in a hands-on manner from a remote location. This translates to an economical and effective method to shorten the learning curve for surgeons, applying novel surgical techniques to their practice. SOCRATES equally facilitates the expansion of minimally invasive surgery into areas which may not currently have access to or the budget for surgical experts. This is something which patients around the world will benefit from."

Computer Motion is a high-tech medical device company evolving surgical practices to enhance patient lives. The company develops, manufactures and markets proprietary computer-enhanced and robotic surgical systems, which optimise surgeons' capabilities, improve outcomes, as well as reduce costs. The company plays a significant role in transitioning the surgical community from the current open to increasingly demanded endoscopic procedures. In addition to the SOCRATES Tele-collaborative System, products include the AESOP/ZEUS robotic system for new minimally invasive micro-surgical procedures, such as endoscopic beating heart bypass surgery, and the HERMES Control Centre, a centralised system that enables the surgeon to voice control a network of "smart" medical devices.

Additional news about the first clinical trials with Computer Motion's Tele-collaborative System is available in the VMW April 2001 article Socrates surgical mentor allows surgeon experts to provide remote guidance in complex procedures.

Leslie Versweyveld

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