Jannett Matthews has had two robotic surgeries: one for weight loss, one to remove her gallbladder.
Her surgeons were just feet away, but what if they were far way? Robotic surgery has been done, "at a distance of five or 600 miles," Roger Smith, PhD, Chief Technology Officer at Florida Hospital Nicholson Center said.
But telesurgery expert Roger Smith says operating from more than 100 miles from a patient is a big challenge because of internet lag. It causes delays between when a surgeon moves his hands, to when the robot responds.
"Above half a second you see some of them totally fall apart," Dr. Smith said.
While doctors can't speed up communication technology, they could adapt to it.
"Move and pause a second. Move and pause a second," Dr. Smith explained.
Smith is conducting studies with surgeons to help them get used to the lag.
Exercises simulate the delays.
"If the latency is very high you sometimes feel frustrated. The more exercises you do the better you get," Robotic Urology Fellow, Haidar Abdul Mushin said.
Smith says if doctors do adjust their techniques to deal with lag or if telecommunications catch up to surgical robots.
"The best surgeon in the world could be on call for the most critical cases in the world," Dr. Smith said.
A four million dollar grant from department of defense is funding smith's telesurgery study. He's still recruiting surgeons, along with performing telesurgeries across the US. The hope is someday doctors stateside could perform surgery on wounded warriors in battlefield hospitals overseas.