Aim To determine acceptable limits of communication delays in telesurgery, we investigated the impact of communication delays under a dynamic environment using a surgical assist robot. Previous studies have evaluated acceptable delays under static environments. Effects of delays may be enhanced in dynamic environments, but studies have not yet focused on this point. Methods Thirty-four subjects with different surgical experience (Group1: no surgical experience; Group2: only laparoscopic surgical experience; Group3: robotic surgery experience) performed 4 tasks under different delays (0, 70, 100, 150, 200, or 300 ms) using a surgical assist robot. Task accomplishment time and total movement distance of forceps were recorded and compared under different communication delays of 0–300 ms. In addition, surgical performance was compared between Group1or Group2 without delay and Group3 with communication delays. Results Significant differences in task accomplishment time were found between delays of 0 and 70 ms, but not between delays of 70 and 100 ms. Thereafter, the greater the communication delay, the longer the task accomplishment time. Similar results were obtained in total movement distance of forceps. Comparisons between Group3 with delay and Group1 or Group2 without delay demonstrated that surgical performance in Group3 with delay was superior or equal to that of Group1 or Group2 without delay as long as the delay was 100 ms or less. Conclusions Communication delays in telesurgery may be acceptable if 100 ms or less. Experienced surgeons with more than 100 ms of delay could outperform less-experienced surgeons without delay.
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