GLENFIELD, England, April 29 (UPI) -- British cardiologists used a robotic arm to perform surgery to correct an irregular heartbeat while the surgeon was in another room, hospital officials said.
The procedure, a medical first, involved passing a thin metal wire along the patient's blood vessels and into the heart where a precise dot of heat was then applied to a faulty section of heart muscle, said officials at Glenfield Hospital, one of England's primary hospitals for coronary care.
Cardiologist Andre Ng of the nearby University of Leicester carried out the procedure using the $540,000 Catheter Robotics Remote Catheter Manipulation System, the officials said.
Tony Blair was treated for a similar atrial flutter and atrial fibrillation condition when he was Britain's prime minister in 2004 -- but his procedure, at a different hospital, was carried out by hand, Britain's Daily Telegraph reported.
Doctors normally must stand over the patient wearing lead aprons to protect themselves from dangerous levels of radiation from frequent X-rays, taken to guide to the wire into place, the Telegraph said.
But with the new robot, made by Catheter Robotics Inc. of Budd Lake, N.J., a doctor can sit in an adjacent room, with no need for protection, and control the metal wire using a joystick and monitors.
The traditional procedure takes up to 8 hours, but the operation on retired postal worker Kenneth Crocker, 70, of Burton Upon Trent, England, was completed in 1 hour, Britain's Daily Mail reported.
Doctors can be trained on the catheter manipulation system in about 15 minutes, the Mail said.