Telemedicine: the new must for surgery


  • P.M. Schlag
  • K.T. Moesta
  • S. Rakovsky
  • G. Graschew


  • Archives of Surgery


  • Arch Surg 134 (11): 1216-1221


  • The vision of telesurgery comprises a multitude of new communicative elements influencing the way surgeons will treat their patients in the future. The first prerequisite for effective telecommunication is to digitize surgical data. Many medical imaging modalities provide primarily digital data sets, and digital image communication is already entering clinical practice under the labels of teleradiology and telepathology. However, for any surgical purpose, images must refer to tissues. Three-dimensional image reconstruction is warranted, and if such data shall be useful during surgery, different image sources must be combined into some virtual, multiparametric body model and matched to an intraoperatively distorted organ contour. A multitude of detail problems arise, beginning with image standards, data interfaces, data transport, image fusion, registering, contour matching, and, once the data are integrated, all the aspects of surgery-suitable data display and interaction. We refer here to several demonstration projects illustrating such a complex surgical data set and its interactive telecommunication. In all instances, telecommunication was to enable a concentration of distributed medical intelligence at the site where the patient was treated. With further technological development, such telesurgical applications will have a growing influence on patient management and surgical decision making. In the very near future, computer-aided navigation and robotic assistance, based on the same surgical data sets, will be available to all fields of surgery. How decisive the role these methods will play for specific procedures or diseases needs to be determined.