In the comments of my recent post Anesthesiologists Demand To Outrun Supply? a number of medical doctors, including several anesthesiologists, took strong exception to the possibility of automating anesthesiology. Well, researchers at McGill University in Canada and Pisa University in Italy have recently used videoconferencing to allow anesthesiologists to control drug delivery remotely thru an automated system.
Videoconferences may be known for putting people to sleep, but never like this. Dr. Thomas Hemmerling and his team of McGill's Department of Anesthesia achieved a world first on August 30, 2010, when they treated patients undergoing thyroid gland surgery in Italy remotely from Montreal. The approach is part of new technological advancements, known as 'Teleanesthesia', and it involves a team of engineers, researchers and anesthesiologists who will ultimately apply the drugs intravenously which are then controlled remotely through an automated system.
This achievement is a product of an on-going scientific collaboration between Dr. Hemmerling's team and the Italian team of Dr. Zaouter of the Department of Anesthesia of Pisa University (Chairman Prof. Giunta).
Humans are still making the decisions at this stage of development. This approach does not provide remote anesthesiologists with the ability to do everything they normally do such as intubation and other physical activities that anesthesiologists normally do. But in theory a far less expensive person could be trained to do the physical actions for a remote anesthesiologist. However, if an internet link went down during an operation the loss of remote control could become a big problem.
Check out a related site newanesthesia.com.