Doctors in China reach patient 3,900km away with 5G-powered surgical robot

2 min readFeb 19, 2023
Image credit: Unsplash

Ahospital in eastern China yesterday operated on a patient living 3,900 kilometers away in the country’s westernmost Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region with the help of a surgical robot.

Liang Xiao, a senior surgeon at Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital in Hangzhou, capital of Zhejiang Province, sent commands to a surgical robot in Xinjiang’s Aral Shehri region and presided over the telesurgery on a 30-year-old local woman surnamed Yang to remove parts of her inflamed gallbladder.

According to media reports, this is the country’s first 5G-powered robot-assisted surgery on liver and gallbladder diseases.

The surgery, which lasted half an hour, was powered by the surgical robot platform from Microport MedBot Group (微创机器人, HK: 2252), reportedly the nation’s first 5G-enabled four-arm endoscopic surgical robot.

The platform comes with independently developed core hardware and software.

One of the merits of using a surgical robot is a smaller rate of developing post-surgery complications, therefore conducive to a faster recovery.

Photo courtesy of Sir Run Run Shaw Hospital in Hangzhou

“In the past, if the patient were to be operated on by a Hangzhou-based doctor, the doctor would have to take an eight-and-a-half-hour flight to the local airport, followed by a half-hour bus ride, to reach the hospital,” said Liang.

“With 5G-enabled telesurgery robotic solutions, the surgeon doesn’t have to leave Hangzhou and the patient doesn’t need to take the trouble to travel.”

She added that in the future, telesurgeries across ultra-long distances can become a normalized procedure, allowing patients in far-flung areas to go under the knife at the hands of doctors in Hangzhou without leaving their homes.

Telemedicine and even telesurgery have become possible in a large country like China with the advent of technologies such as 5G telecommunications, robotics, and augmented reality over the years.

This has provided a boon for patients in remote corners of the nation, which is known for its notoriously uneven distribution of medical resources.

In a similar example, doctors in Jiangsu of eastern China and Xinjiang, who were 4,700 kilometers apart, worked together in June last year on two urologic operations, setting a record then as surgeries performed across the longest distance in the world.