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Oceans apart, but surgery succeeds

In early September, a French group performed the first transatlantic operation. Surgeons in New York controlled a robot in Strasbourg, France, which removed a woman's gall bladder. There were two surgeons near the patient standing by.

Robotic surgery is used in more than 100 hospitals around the world. The technology filters out a surgeon's hand tremors, and it also can scale down the surgeon's motions, enabling more precise procedures. Jacques Marescaux, a surgeon with the Institute for Research into Cancer of the Digestive System in Strasbourg, conducted the operation from New York.

This is the first time surgery has been done from such a distance, he says. Most researchers believed that the time delay caused by taking the video images of the procedure, compressing them into digital form, sending them overseas via optical fibers, and decoding them on the other end would impair a surgeon's ability to manipulate the robot.

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