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Chinese team perform world-first robotic surgery from Rome in Beijing

Jen Copestake


In a world first, a Chinese surgeon performed a remote transcontinental telesurgery from Rome on a prostate cancer patient in Beijing, over 8,000 kilometers away.

Professor Zhang Xu performed the live surgery at a conference in Italy, guiding robotic arms remotely via a surgical console to complete the delicate work of removing a lesion from the patient's prostate.

A Chinese team of medics, including a back-up surgeon, watched the operation closely at the Third Medical Center of the People's Liberation Army General Hospital.

The delay, or latency, was only 135 milliseconds, below the 200 milliseconds standard suggested by various medical studies for telesurgery.


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"The biggest problem with a remote surgery is communication – whether there is any delay," said Zhang, who is also the the director of the Urology Department at the Third Medical Center of PLA General Hospital.

"During today's surgery, there was almost no delay, and it was almost the same as an on-site surgery," he added.

The chairman of the conference on Challenges in Laparoscopy, Robotics and AI, Vito Pansadoro, said the achievement was a historical moment.

"The fact that he was able to do it in Rome makes us very, very happy," he said.

After the success of the operation, the team says it will experiment with using the technology to direct surgical treatments for the military. 

Chinese team perform world-first robotic surgery from Rome in Beijing

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