7/26/02 - Tele-Medicine

Imagine being in a surgery, and having doctors who are hundreds of miles away be a part of it. That's the idea behind tele-medicine.

Tele-medicine is slowly finding it's place in the world of medicine. One high-tech video-system allowed doctors in Massachusetts to assist in an operation being performed in the South Pole.

Meteorologist Dar Gibson was working at a weather station at the South Pole when he ruptured a tendon in his knee. But weather conditions were way too dangerous to fly Gibson out for the surgery he would need to repair the damaged tendon. Luckily, doctors from Mass General Hospital in Boston were able to help.

Through video-conferencing, the physicians were able to lead a doctor already stationed at the South Pole, through the operation, thousands of miles away. Dr. Bertram Zarins says, "We had a few dropouts in the satellite and we had to work on the camera angles, getting the proper views and getting the cameras in the right place. Dr. Vicki Modest says, "It was very exciting, but it was odd not to be able to lay my hands on the patient and get a feel for what was going on.

Even though the Antarctica program has used video links to assist in medical procedures before, this is the first time it's used tele-medicine for surgery. Dr. Zarins hopes that this success of this operation will encourage more physicians to use this new technology. "I think there will be more telemedicine, not necessarily surgery. We'll be able to assist people in remote areas. It perhaps opens a lot of people eyes, saying let's utilize this technology," Dr. Modest says.

As for the patient, Dar Gibson is said to be doing just fine and thanks to the existence of tele-surgery, he's expected to regain full function of his knee.

For more information on tele-medicine click here: