SMS -remote-controlled orthopedic surgery, anyone????

in Medicine/Training by

This interesting news caught my attention just today.

A British doctor volunteering in DR Congo used text message instructions from a colleague to perform a life-saving amputation on a boy.- BBC News Health

It is not unusual for surgeons to refer to other surgeons for guidance on opinions regarding some cases they do. Some are personally being coached by more experienced surgeons actually. Residents in training are actually required to refer and if necessary ask the help of a consultant in all surgeries they are doing. And intra operative referrals, especially on emergency cases, is not uncommon.

But I have yet to hear an actual surgery being remotely controlled via text messaging, step by step. These surgeons, from Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) in Rutshuru have done it. If we believe their report as true, it was labeled as a “success”.

 The surgeons (Dr. Nott, in the middle) who performed a four quarter surgery via text messaging guide (Picture from BBC News)

Tell that to surgeons in most tertiary centers and you’ll hear “What??!!!” and “Uh no, not in my OR!”

Such textual surgery (for lack of a term), may be life saving in some third world countries like Congo who lack surgeons to perform life saving surgeries. I wonder if this is also possible in the far flung communities of the Philippines. More importantly, what if the telco’s sms service sucks??? or the cp doesn’t have enough load to send all the chapter long step by step procedure???

“Nurse, pa load muna!!!”

I shiver in such predicament…

Dr. Remo-tito Aguilar co-founded #HealthXPh. A board certified orthopedic surgeon, he is Chief of Clinics at General Santos Medical Center and Medical Specialist II Orthopedics at the Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City. Dr. Aguilar is a healthcare social media evangelist and writes his medical musings at The Cast & Curious (