Long-distance medical direction assists complex in utero surgery
Thanks to 5G technology, experts in Shanghai were able to direct a complicated in utero surgery taking place in Fujian Province more than 770 kilometers away.
Dr Sun Luming from Shanghai First Maternity and Infant Hospital gave real-time guidance to doctors performing surgery on a woman pregnant with a pair of twins at 19 weeks.
Checks had found one of the twins had a rare complication, as it had no heart, or its heart has no function, so all blood circulation depended on the other fetus.
The incidence is one in every 35,000 pregnancies, and 1 percent in monozygotic twins.
If not corrected before delivery, more than half of the healthy children will die during the perinatal period, Sun said.
"So the disease is a critical and serious problem for fetuses," she said.
The in utero surgery is to block the blood supply between the two fetuses in order to improve the survival of the healthy child to 80 to 90 percent.
Since such complications are rare and complicated, most patients usually travel to leading hospitals in big cities for treatment. Local hospitals will also invite top experts like Sun to attend.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fujian hospital, which is in cooperation with Shanghai First, carried out a long-distance, real-time operation under the direction of Sun.
"It was first time that our hospital conducted such a surgery," said Dr Lin Na from Fujian Maternity and Child Care Hospital and chief surgeon of the operation. "The real-time direction from Sun gave confidence to both medical staff and the patient."
Sun said the adoption of new technologies like 5G and AI offers more opportunities of innovative methods of medical service.
"The online diagnosis system we used previously was not very clear and not real time, which impacted us to give precise directions during the process," Sun said.
"The telecommunication this time is very clear, without any delay. It is just like I am inside the operation room. Through such platforms, we will be able to carry out more long-distance surgical direction in the future."