Background: The dawn of laparoscopic surgery and the telecommunications revolution have given birth to the field of telesurgery. Methods: Even now, surgery is being performed over great distances to bring expert surgical care to physically isolated patients with otherwise limited healthcare access. Results: As technical obstacles are eliminated in the future, telesurgery will extend the reach of military surgeons to patients at sea and on the battlefield, and astronauts will undergo procedures performed by earthbound interventionalists. Just as the Internet has revolutionized the way everyday consumers shop, eventually, telesurgery may transform surgical care, as patients may stay in their local hospitals and simply "dial up" the best telesurgeon for their specific operation. Telesurgical teams have now formed to refine technical approaches to telesurgery, study the effects of telesurgery on human task performance, and establish telesurgery networks around the world. Conclusions: While some legitimate social, political, and economic issues remain as impediments to the routine practice of telesurgery, there is now no question that telesurgery will play a role in the delivery of surgical care in the twenty-first century. © Springer-Verlag 2005.
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