5G Could Finally Herald the Era of Wireless Surgery

Though it may still sound like science fiction, over the past 15 years, robotic-assisted surgeries have become practically commonplace. The vast majority of these operations are performed by the da Vinci surgical system, a four-armed, minimally invasive surgical robot controlled by a doctor sitting at a nearby console. In 2018, the da Vinci system was used in roughly 1 million surgeries. However, some experts see surgical robotics as just a stepping-stone to the next transformational surgery technology: telesurgery, or surgeries conducted by doctors located miles away from their patients.
Telesurgery procedures are still exceedingly rare, due in part to concerns around internet reliability and infrastructure. Controlling a surgery remotely is possible only if the data connection is broad and secure. But now, with the adoption of 5G communication networks, there’s reason to believe that mass-market telesurgeries are finally on the horizon. In fact, earlier this year, unconfirmed reports emerged that surgeons in China had conducted the world’s first 5G telesurgery on a human patient.

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Who could benefit the most from remote surgeries? Rural folks a significant distance from urban medical centers. However, it is doubtful these remote communities will have 5G and da Vinci robots anytime in the near future. Rural communities will be the last in the 5G queue if they ever get 5G.

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