A surgeon in China has operated the world’s first remote operation using 5G technology, according to local reports. The surgeon in the southeastern province of Fujian used the next-gen network to run robotic arms in a remote location 30 miles away. To perform surgery remotely, four things are mandatory: a surgeon, a patient, a robot, and a very fast and invincible internet connection. Three of those four are comparatively easy to find, and 5G is likely to provide the fourth as remote surgery on a laboratory animal in China just confirmed. The surgeon, who operated two robotic arms, was 30 miles from an operating theatre in Fujian territory. During the process, he removed a laboratory animal’s liver, the South China Morning Post reported.
The big benefit of using a 5G network for remote surgery is the lessened latency it offers. The lesser the latency, the more reactive the surgery robot will be to the surgeon’s actions tens or hundreds of miles away. Therefore it reduces the chances of mistakes being made and permits the surgeon to work as if they are really present in the same room. By lowering the latency to near immediate, 5G opens up new possibilities for existing technologies like virtual and augmented reality. The 5G system, which is said to be at any rate 10 times as fast as current networks, and possibly even up to a hundred times, has a lag time of only 0.1 seconds.
The researchers said that this high-speed can reduce the risk of potentially lethal medical mistakes. They hope that 5G enabled remote surgery will soon convert reliable enough that it can be used securely on humans as well. This could end up saving limitless lives as skilled surgeons will be able to operate on patients in remote locations in a safe manner. The fifth generation scheme is a “trend-setting technology which will play a significant role in surgery”, Dr Michael Kranzfelder from Rechts der Isar Hospital in Munich said at last year’s German Society of Surgery. He also said it would “open up many new areas of application for which the earlier mobile data transmission standard was simply not fast enough”.
The first wide-spread roll outs are already taking place in South Korea, China and Japan, while the UK can expect to see 5G networks up and running at scale either later this year or in 2020. Mobile network EE announced in December that it would bring 5G to Belfast, Birmingham, Cardiff, Edinburgh, London and Manchester in 2019. Marc Allera, CEO of BT’s consumer division, said of EE’s plans: “Adding 5G to the UK’s number one 4G network will increase reliability, increase speeds, and keep our customers connected where they need it most.”
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