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Telemedicine link with South Pole allows remote knee surgery

In a groundbreaking telemedicine development, doctors in Massachusetts earlier this month helped a physician at Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station to surgically repair the damaged knee of a meteorologist spending the winter in Antarctica.

Using a "telemedicine" connection operated by Raytheon Polar Services Co. (RPSC) of Centennial, Colo., orthopedic surgeon Bertram Zarins and anesthesiologist Vicki Modest, both of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, helped South Pole physician Dr. Timothy Pollard to suture a damaged tendon in the left knee of RPSC employee Dar Gibson in a two-hour operation July 5 (EDT). Gibson injured his knee in a fall.

RPSC is the National Science Foundation's logistical support contractor in Antarctica.

The U.S. Antarctic Program has used two-way voice and video links between the U.S. and Antarctica to assist in medical procedures, but this is the first time in the program's nearly 50-year history that telemedicine has been used for surgery. Doctors are assigned to all three U.S.-operated, year-round stations in Antarctica but the medical facilities there are not designed for surgery.

The operation's success marks a milestone in efforts to use telecommunications to improve the medical services available to those who must spend the long austral winter at one of the world's most remote scientific stations. "The health and safety of our people comes first and I'm grateful that the skills of all concerned could be combined so effectively with 21st century technology to meet this challenge," said Karl Erb, who heads NSF's Office of Polar Programs. "Our thoughts are with the patient. We wish him a speedy and complete recovery."

NSF, which manages the U.S. Antarctic Program, conducts leading-edge research at the pole in a variety of disciplines and is rebuilding the only scientific station there. Because of its location high on the Polar Plateau and at the Earth's axis, Amundsen-Scott is a wor
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Contact: Peter West
pwest@nsf.gov
703-292-8070
National Science Foundation
17-Jul-2002


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