Surgeons train paediatric interventions using robotic telecollaboration between Hannover and Johannesburg

Hannover, Johannesburg 01 April 2003Professor Benno Ure at Hannover Medical School, Germany has used Computer Motion's SOCRATES Robotic Telecollaboration System during a series of three procedures performed by Dr. Robert Banieghbal on paediatric patients located at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa. This marks the first international use of telecollaboration to introduce new technology and minimally invasive procedures to paediatric surgeons around the world.


The surgeons first performed laparoscopic surgery on a 2 year-old girl to treat a severe case of childhood gastro-esophageal or acid reflux. The SOCRATES System enabled telepresence allowed Professor Ure to share control of the AESOP Robotic Endoscope Positioner, to visually annotate the surgical image during the procedure, and to monitor the status of additional medical devices.

Between February 19 and February 21, the surgeons successfully completed three cases on children between 1 and 3 years old, including Nissen and Thal fundoplication procedures. The surgeons used a minimally invasive robotically assisted approach that reduced the pain and trauma to the patients, and allowed them to recover more quickly and with less scarring than using a traditional "open" surgical approach. In the case of a 1 year-old boy, Dr. Banieghbal, experienced in Nissen fundoplication procedures, performed his first Thal procedure with the real-time guidance of Professor Ure.

"I am convinced that this collaboration is the beginning of a new era of safe and effective paediatric surgery and surgeon training", stated Dr. Ure, Professor of Paediatric Medicine at Hannover Medical School. "This system will allow the expertise of major medical centres to extend around the world, to the benefit of other surgeons and directly to patients."

"The benefits of having an experienced surgeon available virtually anywhere any time, made it possible for me to perform a procedure safely for the first time, all alone", stated Dr. Banieghbal, paediatric surgeon at Baragwanath Hospital. "This is a fantastic way to further surgical training."

Robotic technologies are advancing the field of minimally invasive surgery, especially in the case of the very small anatomies of infants and children. SOCRATES' capabilities are also advancing surgeon training and education by linking surgeons in the operating room with colleagues around the world. The operating surgeon has full control over the surgical instruments, while the collaborating remote surgeon can also control AESOP, a robotic arm that holds the endoscopic camera positioned inside the patient, using voice commands. Both surgeons view the same magnified area of the anatomy during surgery.

"Professor Ure and Dr. Banieghbal's success in clinical use of SOCRATES, and their institutions' commitment, clearly shows the benefits of removing the barriers of distance and time from the delivery of expert surgical care", stated John Soto, Computer Motion's Vice President and General Manager, Operations for Europe, Middle East, and Africa. "Computer Motion is today providing the future platform for rapid dissemination of the latest advances, expertise, and best practices in patient-friendly surgical techniques."

The SOCRATES Robotic Telecollaboration System is an integrated system of telecommunication equipment, networked surgical devices, and robotics that provides an efficient and economical pathway to enable remote mentoring and surgical collaboration. SOCRATES allows a surgeon located at a remote site to assist another surgeon who may be located in an operating room down the hall, across the country or on the other side of the world. Through its unique capabilities, the SOCRATES system effectively allows a surgeon to have a "telepresence" in a remote operating room.

Computer Motion's products include the ZEUS Surgical System for minimally invasive surgical procedures, and the HERMES Control Center, a centralised system that enables the surgeon to voice control a network of "smart" medical devices. The AESOP Robotic Endoscope Positioner is the first surgical robot to be made commercially available in the United States.

The company's newest product, the SOCRATES Telecollaboration System, facilitates surgeon collaboration using video and audio conferencing, shared control of the endoscopic camera, and video annotation on the surgical image in the operating room. The company's products are CE-Marked for commercial sale in the European Community. More news on the SOCRATES Robotic Telecollaration System is available in the VMW November 2002 article Surgeons in Italy and Israel perform telepresence surgery with Computer Motion's SOCRATES Robotic Telecollaboration System.

Leslie Versweyveld

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