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AI + 5G = Surgical Advances

SriniVas Sadda, MD

President & Chief Scientific Officer

In an era when patient care is constantly and rapidly advancing thanks to technology, it’s particularly exciting when several state-of-the art technologies can be combined to lead to momentous breakthroughs.

Artificial intelligence enabled robotic assistance in surgery has the potential to revolutionize ophthalmologic care in the future. Robots have already been shown to be capable of reducing or eliminating a surgeon’s hand tremor. In very delicate eye surgeries, that matters enormously because even the slightest of movements can impact the outcome.

Meanwhile, innovation with digital microscopes and 3D goggles also improve our results. It’s even possible for a doctor in one location to supervise a surgical team in another location by using cameras and remote viewing systems. Combining remote viewing with robotic assistance, the tantalizing possibilities of remote surgery are now being considered. But those procedures can be imperfect because of delays in telecommunications. In other words, the picture or the physician’s response can take several seconds to travel, and every second, even a fraction of a second, can make a difference in surgery.

Our UCLA Stein Eye Institute colleague Dr. Jean Pierre Hubschman’s work in this area has been pioneering in its bioengineering approaches and advances.

Over the past decade, the imaging platform has continuously evolved to allow for ever greater precision.

Now, the advent of 5G promises to further improve outcomes by eliminating that latency. This enhanced speed in transferring images of the surgery in process can unlock the full potential of robotic surgery. If the video stream is transferred in real time, a supervising physician in the next room, or even another country can participate seamlessly. Now that we can combine the developed techniques of robotic assisted surgery with the immediacy of 5G networks we may be in a position to unlock the full potential of the robotics Dr. Hubschman and his colleagues have developed, and offer our patients a measure of care that is truly state of the art. In particular, patients in remote regions may be able to enjoy benefits of having their surgery performed by world-class experts. There is still much work of course to be done, before this dream is a reality, but this possibility is truly exciting.

I know you join me in enjoying the thrill of these innovations, and your support makes it possible.

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