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March 08, 2001

Nancy Lawrence
Media Relations, LHSC
519-685-8500, ext. 77642

London Health Sciences Centre achieves another "world first" in surgical robotics

(LONDON, Ontario) - London Health Sciences Centre has achieved a second world-first using robotic technology in an operating room. The hospital announced today that a team of surgeons completed the world's first robotic-assisted surgery using videoconferencing technology where one surgeon not only assisted and mentored another surgeon from a remote site, but that the remote surgeon was also able to manipulate the robotic technology based in the operating room. This is the first time in the world that the technology has been used during a case where an actual surgical procedure was done on a patient rather than in a mock, surgical setting. The robotic system, known as Socrates, was developed by Computer Motion and the surgical approach is known as telementoring.

To date, a total of six cases have been completed using the telementoring approach, including two thoracic procedures, one general surgery, and three cardiac cases. The six cases were all done within the last two weeks. In all cases, the surgery was completed in an operating room at University Campus while the surgical mentor was located some 10 kilometres away at Westminster Campus. Specifically, the cases involved:


  • thoracic surgeon, Dr. Richard Malthaner, completed both a pleural biopsy, which involves taking a biopsy of the lining of the lung, and a resection of a lung tumour, while being telementored by Dr. Richard Inculet, Chief of Thoracic Surgery at LHSC;
  • Dr. Brian Taylor, Chief of General Surgery, completed an appendectomy while being telementored by Dr. Winston Hewitt, a surgical resident;
  • two cardiac bypass procedures involving Dr. Douglas Boyd, a cardiothoracic surgeon and Director of the National Centre for Advanced Surgery and Robotics at LHSC, and Dr. Reiza Rayman, Director of Research and Business Operations for the National Centre for Advanced Surgery and Robotics at LHSC; and
  • a cardiac valve procedure completed by cardiovascular surgeon, Dr. Alan Menkis while mentored by Drs. Boyd and Rayman.

The Socrates System consists of two stations; one housed in the primary surgeon's operating room along with the endoscopic positioner (or camera) and the control centre. The second station is housed in the remote surgeon's work space. Socrates enables bi-directional audio and video between the two stations and provides the remote surgeon access to devices networked to the control centre. One such device is the endoscopic positioner which allows the surgical view to be steadily maintained and accurately repositioned as required.

Socrates enables the remote surgeon shared remote control of the endoscopic positioner so that the operative and remote surgeons can work together to maintain ideal surgical positioning. In addition, Socrates provides the remote surgeon with telestrating capability, allowing him or her to draw on top of the surgical image to further illustrate his or her message.

"This accomplishment brings us one step closer to telesurgery," says Dr. Ken Harris, Chief of Surgery at LHSC. "Currently, the remote specialist is able to link to the operative surgeon's operating room via telecommunication technology and teach and advise the surgeon without physically being there. The logic, of course, is that if the remote specialist can manipulate the robotic arm holding the endoscopic camera, why not the robotic arm holding the surgical instrument?"

LHSC President & CEO, Tony Dagnone, congratulates the LHSC staff and surgeons on their accomplishments. "This is a splendid example of the innovative spirit at this hospital."

"The positive impacts to patient care delivery due to the telementoring approach are astounding," says Mr. Dagnone. "We believe this technology will someday mean patients will be able to access the care they need closer to home in their own community hospitals. Beyond our region, this technology will also allow us to share with and learn from other world-class health care providers."

"As a health centre, LHSC is committed to pursuing robotically-assisted surgeries as we believe it is in the best interests of patients, will dramatically improve outcomes for patients, and allow them to enjoy an improved quality of life," adds Mr. Dagnone.

This latest accomplishment follows the world's first robotically-assisted, closed chest beating heart cardiac bypass surgery in September 1999, performed by Dr. Boyd and a highly skilled surgical team at LHSC's University Campus. LHSC is the only centre in North America utilizing robotic technology for both cardiac bypass and cardiac valve surgeries. It was also the first centre in Canada to perform cardiac bypass surgery fully utilizing a robotic, 3-D vision camera system.

The National Centre for Advanced Surgery and Robotics is funded by the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Ontario Research & Development Challenge Fund, the Ontario Innovation Trust, industry partners, and private foundations and is a major program of the Lawson Health Research Institute - the research division of London hospitals.

Computer Motion is a high-tech medical device company evolving surgical practices to enhance patients' lives. The company develops, manufactures and markets proprietary computer-enhanced and robotic surgical systems, which enhance surgeons' capabilities, improve outcomes and reduce costs. Computer Motion's products include the voice-controlled AESOP Endoscopic Positioner; the HERMES Control Centre, a centralized system which enables the surgeon to voice control a network of "smart" medical devices; and the ZEUS Robotic Surgical System for new minimally-invasive microsurgery procedures such as endoscopic, beating heart bypass surgery.

London Health Sciences Centre is one of Canada's largest teaching hospitals dedicated to excellence in patient care, teaching and research. LHSC has a capacity of more than 800 beds, including the Children's Hospital of Western Ontario and two Family Practice Centres. The staff of approximately 7,000 care for more than half a million inpatient, outpatient and emergency patients annually.