China's First-Ever 5G Remote Brain Surgery

A Chinese surgeon collaborated with Huawei and China Mobile to operate from 3,0000 km away. It was the first time such an operation took place in China.
John Loeffler

A doctor in China performed remote, 5G surgery on the human brain.

According to China Daily, a patient suffering from Parkinson’s disease had the country’s first 5G-based remote surgery on a human brain. It was a remarkable feat that took place in 2019. Since then, we have seen similar surgeries take place throughout the country. 

With help from China Mobile and Chinese technology giant Huawei, China’s PLA General Hospital (PLAGH) performed the operation using 5G technology. Performed by Ling Zhipei, the chief physician of the First Medical Center at PLAGH, the operation implanted a deep brain stimulation (DBS) device in the patient’s brain to help control Parkinson’s symptoms.

Ling, who rotates between PLAGH main campus in Beijing and PLAGH’s Hainan Hospital 3,000 kilometers away, performed the delicate surgery in about three hours.

After the operation, the patient responded positively: “I feel good.”

For his part, Ling wasn’t expecting to make history when he got the call for the surgery.

"I take turns working in Beijing and Hainan, and the operation took place during my Hainan rotation. A patient with Parkinson's in Beijing needed surgery and couldn't fly to Hainan," he said.

"The 5G network has solved problems like video lag and remote control delay experienced under the 4G network, ensuring a nearly real-time operation. And you barely feel that the patient is 3,000 kilometers away."

Ultimately, 5G and the Internet of Things (IOT) are transforming far more than just our operating rooms. With a connected infrastructure, we could have an artificially intelligent city that drives our vehicles for us, optimizes our energy use, orders our meals, and takes over much of our decision-making. 

Yet, when lives hang on the line, it is the operating room that matters the most. Already, AI robotic experts have set their sights on the medical field. Many experts believe that an autonomous robot could soon be a regular member of any hospital’s medical staff, performing all sorts of duties like taking a patient’s vitals, reading case notes, or even performing surgery. 

Case in point, modern disinfecting robots around the world already move autonomously to rooms of patients that are being discharged. From there, they bombard the empty room with high-powered UV rays for several minutes until no microorganism is left alive. And the DaVinci system is also hard at work. It assists doctors and nurses by allowing them to make tiny incisions with the utmost precision.

Coupled with 5G, these technologies could allow doctors (or AI systems) in other parts of the world operate on individuals safely and efficiently. 

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