Doctors say they can place stents in patients from a different city or room

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- If you were scheduled for surgery but told the doctor would be performing the procedure from another city, would you do it?

Doctors at Spectrum Health have performed a study that shows it's both possible and safe. Dr. Ryan Madder says the study is the first of its kind.

Dr. Madder and others hope to eliminate geographic barriers while installing stents, and they're calling it telestenting. Madder describes this first step in performing surgeries remotely as similar to playing a video game.

The concept is simple: a robot places a stent into an artery with the help of a few monitors, with the physician guiding the robot using joy sticks. Yes, just like a video game.

"Instead of standing at the patient's bedside pushing the device in and out of the heart to fix these arteries, we actually sit within the confides of a cockpit," Dr. Madder said.

We're told the robot actually gives doctors a greater level of precision during the procedure. The doctor is able to accurately measure the length of the blockage and choose the best size stent.

Dr. Madder developed a study, placing guidewires, balloons and stents into 20 different patients remotely, with the physician in a different room--not in the operating room with the patient.

Dr. Madder says telestenting could benefit patients in areas that don't have access to local specialists. It's estimated a half of a million people in Michigan live more than 60 minutes' travel time to the nearest hospital capable of putting in a stent.

More research is needed to determine if telestenting will work over greater distances. The research is being funded through philanthropy from West Michigan donors.

Madder's telemedicine research

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