Underwater experiments using the latest remote surgical technologies

McMaster’s Mehran Anvari will conduct experiments using the latest remote surgical technologies and techniques during a 10-day underwater mission taking place this October.

The director of McMaster's Centre for Minimal Access Surgery (CMAS) will guide NEEMO 7 -- a mission that will focus on the demonstration and evaluation of innovative remote technologies.

Anvari announced the NEEMO crew Monday at the Canadian Warplane Heritage Museum in Mount Hope. The crew is made up of Craig McKinley, a CMAS surgeon, Canadian astronaut Dave Williams, and two American astronauts. Following the announcement, the crew visited McMaster University to talk to students from the Venture Science and Engineering camp.

"Since its inception in 1999, CMAS has developed techniques to overcome some challenges faced by physicians in isolated communities," says Anvari. "The NEEMO 7 mission allows us to test these techniques in an extreme environment."

In the surgical simulations involving telementoring, Anvari will use two-way telecommunication links to guide an untrained surgeon in Aquarius. Another simulation involves telerobotics and virtual-reality technology, where Anvari will perform operations on a mock patient inside Aquarius.

Aquarius is an underwater habitat located 19 metres below the surface of the sea, 5.6 km off Key Largo in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Owned by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Aquarius is about 14 by 4 metres, with 11 cubic metres of living and laboratory space.

"The extreme conditions of a long underwater mission are similar to those of space," says Dave Williams, mission commander of the NEEMO 7. "The NEEMO 7 mission presents astronauts and physicians with an unprecedented opportunity to test state-of-the-art remote medical techniques in real-time and real-life situations. Someday, these techniques could be used in long-duration, manned space flights."

There have been six NEEMO (NASA Extreme Environment Mission Operations) missions to date. NEEMO 7 is a joint project involving McMaster’s Centre for Minimal Access Surgery located at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton, the Canadian Space Agency, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

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