A British surgeon has successfully conducted the first heart rhythm operation using a remote-controlled robot.
The feat paves the way for patients to undergo surgery by doctors located in other cities or countries.
A cardiologist at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester, Andre Ng, was able to restore a patient's irregular heart rhythm within an hour, according to a Reuters report.
Currently, robotic surgery is used for cases of coronary artery disease and several types of cancer, including gynecological, kidney and bladder cancers.
The $535,000 system that Ng used is called a Remote Catheter Manipulation System, and was developed by New Jersey-based Catheter Robotics.
For the procedure, Ng inserted catheters into blood vessels near the top of the groin and threaded them up into the chambers of the heart.
Why catheters? Electrodes on them help record and stimulate different regions of the heart, allowing a doctor to identify the cause of the irregular heart rhythm -- often due to an abnormality in the heart's own electrical wiring.
Once the troublesome area is found, a doctor places a catheter to burn the tissue, curing the abnormality. (This technique is called catheter ablation.)
The system has been used for seven procedures thus far, according to a Heartwire report.
The advantage of using a remote-controlled robot isn't just for flashy technique -- it's also safer for the doctor.
A doctor who isn't physically standing next to the patient need not wear the heavy radiation shields or lead aprons that protect against radiation exposure from X-rays performed in the operating room.
The operation was performed on a 70-year-old British man who was suffering from an atrial heart flutter.
The key for future remote operations? A reliable link between doctor and operating room. When it comes to surgery, a little latency could make the difference between life and death.