Tuesday, January 26, 1999

Eye operation to be
performed with doctor’s help
via television

By Rod Thompson


WAIMEA, Hawaii -- For the first time in the world, surgeons on the Big Island and in Honolulu will use two-way, closed-circuit television to collaborate on an eye operation while it is in progress, North Hawaii Community Hospital has announced.

The operation will be performed on a 16-year-old Honokaa girl at the Big Island hospital Feb. 3 by Dr. Susan Senft, spokesman Wayne Higaki said.

Senft will be guided from Oahu by Dr. Jorge Camara at St. Francis Medical Center in Liliha.

The decision to do the operation using television, part of a process called "telemedicine," was made because the girl's family would find it difficult to go to Honolulu, Higaki said. The family's names were not released.

The decision also allows Camara to devote one to 1-1/2 hours to the operation, instead of making a daylong trip to Waimea.

The patient is described as having a dermoid tumor of the eye socket. To remove the tumor will require a complex operation to cut the mass away from the eyeball while avoiding injury to the muscles and nerves of the eye.

Both Senft and Camara studied at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas. Camara is internationally recognized for his work in surgery of the eye socket and reconstructive surgery, Higaki said.

A successful operation could dramatically affect health care delivery, especially in rural areas where no specialists are available, he said.

Since the project fits Gov. Ben Cayetano's intention to make Hawaii a world-class health center, the governor and other officials will participate in a news conference via closed-circuit television after the operation, Higaki said.

Equipment for telemedicine was purchased with $10 million contributed to state and private hospitals throughout Hawaii by the Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Foundation.

There are about 160 institutions in the United States with telemedicine capability, compared to only four in 1991.

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