Doctor in UAE, treatment 7,000km away in Korea: World's first public telerobotic surgery trial performed for stroke

The first clinical case can be expected to be performed next year following the regulatory approvals

by

Ashwani Kumar

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Published: Wed 15 May 2024, 5:46 PM

Giving a sneak peek into what the future of healthcare holds, a live telerobotic surgery trial for emergency stroke treatment was successfully performed by a doctor in Abu Dhabi on a model about 7,000km away in Seoul, South Korea.

The groundbreaking achievement was demonstrated by XCath – an early-stage medical device company dedicated to expanding endovascular treatment robotic systems and owned in part by Sharjah-based Crescent Enterprises.


During the last day of Abu Dhabi Global Healthcare Week (ADGHW), hosted by the Abu Dhabi Department of Health (DoH), Dr Vitor Mendes Pereira, an experienced neurosurgeon performed a mechanical thrombectomy procedure – a timely removal of blood clots from the brain after a stroke, on a simulated patient. During the public presentation, Dr Pereira, in a matter of few minutes, went through the arteries of the ‘patient’ and pulled out a blood clot that would cause the stroke.

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“We performed the world’s first telerobotic mechanical thrombectomy trial, where we simulated a model of a patient, not a real patient, with our neuro-endovascular robot based in South Korea, 7,000km away from the surgeon’s console here in Abu Dhabi,” Eduardo Fonseca, CEO of XCath, told Khaleej Times after the demonstration.

“Dr Vitor Pereira, the neurosurgeon who performed the world’s first neurovascular robotic procedure (in 2019), controlled and performed a successful removal of a clot using solely telerobotic means,” Fonseca said about Dr Pereira, who is the director of Endovascular Research and Innovation at St Michael’s Hospital, University of Toronto, Canada.

Cutting-edge robotic surgery

Dr Pereira performed the robotic operation using a robotic controller, while the silicone model and the bedside unit were situated in Seoul. The neurovascular devices used were Stryker AXS Infinity LS, Trevo Trakb21, and Trevo NXT. Communication between the robotic controller and the bedside unit used the standard conference Ethernet connection with the possibility of 5G redundancy, rather than dedicated lines. The latency experienced during the procedure ranged from 153 milliseconds to 170 milliseconds, with an average latency of 160 milliseconds.

Watch the video below:

“This treatment is time-sensitive. Every minute that a patient does not get this treatment equates to almost 2 million brain cells lost,” Fonseca said and noted how only a small percentage of patients from the developed world have access to treatment like mechanical thrombectomy. However, the use of robotics will bring medical care closer to patients in even underdeveloped and remote places of the world.

“Our vision is for this technology to be able to democratise care to this new miraculous treatment, and be able to save patients' lives by allowing care to be closer to them,” Fonseca said and underlined that strokes are the leading cause of death and disability in the world with 15 million patients, 6.6 million deaths, and 50 per cent of stroke survivors left chronically disabled.

“It’s an immense burden on healthcare systems worldwide. To put that into perspective, 0.6 per cent of the world’s GDP, at $721 billion a year, is spent on dealing with stroke survivors.”

Fonseca revealed that the first clinical case can be expected to be performed next year following the regulatory approvals, but it will be a long process.

“We’re aware that every day that this technology is not available and democratised around the world, is potentially 1,000s of lives that could be saved. We are working incredibly hard to make this clinical reality,” Fonseca noted.

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