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Article of the Week: A Novel Interface for the Telementoring of Robotic Surgery

Every Week the Editor-in-Chief selects an Article of the Week from the current issue of BJUI. The abstract is reproduced below and you can click on the button to read the full article, which is freely available to all readers for at least 30 days from the time of this post.

In addition to the article itself, there is an accompanying editorial written by a prominent member of the urological community. This blog is intended to provoke comment and discussion and we invite you to use the comment tools at the bottom of each post to join the conversation.

If you only have time to read one article this week, it should be this one.

A Novel Interface for the Telementoring of Robotic Surgery

Daniel H. Shin, Leonard Dalag, Raed A. Azhar, Michael Santomauro, Raj SatkunasivamCharles Metcalfe, Matthew Dunn, Andre Berger, Hooman Djaladat, Mike Nguyen, Mihir M. Desai, Monish Aron, Inderbir S. Gill and Andrew J. Hung


University of Southern California Institute of Urology, Catherine and Joseph Aresty Department of Urology, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA



To prospectively evaluate the feasibility and safety of a novel, second-generation telementoring interface (Connect; Intuitive Surgical Inc., Sunnyvale, CA, USA) for the da Vinci robot.


Robotic surgery trainees were mentored during portions of robot-assisted prostatectomy and renal surgery cases. Cases were assigned as traditional in-room mentoring or remote mentoring using Connect. While viewing two-dimensional, real-time video of the surgical field, remote mentors delivered verbal and visual counsel, using two-way audio and telestration (drawing) capabilities. Perioperative and technical data were recorded. Trainee robotic performance was rated using a validated assessment tool by both mentors and trainees. The mentoring interface was rated using a multi-factorial Likert-based survey. The Mann–Whitney and t-tests were used to determine statistical differences.


We enrolled 55 mentored surgical cases (29 in-room, 26 remote). Perioperative variables of operative time and blood loss were similar between in-room and remote mentored cases. Robotic skills assessment showed no significant difference (P > 0.05). Mentors preferred remote over in-room telestration (P = 0.05); otherwise no significant difference existed in evaluation of the interfaces. Remote cases using wired (vs wireless) connections had lower latency and better data transfer (P = 0.005). Three of 18 (17%) wireless sessions were disrupted; one was converted to wired, one continued after restarting Connect, and the third was aborted. A bipolar injury to the colon occurred during one (3%) in-room mentored case; no intraoperative injuries were reported during remote sessions.


In a tightly controlled environment, the Connect interface allows trainee robotic surgeons to be telementored in a safe and effective manner while performing basic surgical techniques. Significant steps remain prior to widespread use of this technology.

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