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Japan gives go ahead for remotely-controlled surgeries using medical robots



Japan gives go ahead for remotely-controlled surgeries using medical robots

A Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare expert panel has given the green light for remotely-controlled surgery using medical robots, opening the way for patients to get operations by highly-skilled doctors far away.

The panel approved a draft amendment to the guidelines for online medical treatment on June 28 lifting the ban on robotic telesurgery. In response, medical societies concerned will set guidelines on detailed prerequisites for the operations, aiming for practical implementation within the coming years.

Under the scheme, telesurgeries will be performed using the U.S.-made da Vinci Surgical System. The system has multiple arms equipped with endoscopes, scalpels, and other surgical necessities, and will even stitch up incisions.

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The robot furthermore makes very small cuts compared with standard surgical practice, in which large openings are often made in the chest, abdomen or other regions, meaning the da Vinci causes less blood loss and physical strain to the patient. However, the system does require sophisticated skills on the part of surgeons.

Currently, at least 300 da Vinci Surgical System units are employed at institutions across Japan. Fourteen types of operations using the system, including removal of stomach or lung tumors, are covered by public insurance.

Doctors of the Japan Surgical Society and others had demanded the government lift the ban on using da Vinci for telesurgery, saying that current high-speed communication networks allow for stable procedures.

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