A total 16 patients with abnormal heart rhythm have been treated at the Flinders Private Hospital via remote control surgery.

Flinders Medical Centre specialists Andrew McGavigan and Cameron Singleton used the $1 million Hansen robotic system to do the surgery outside the operating room. The machine is the only one in Australia and one of only two in the southern hemisphere with McGavigan and Singleton as the only qualified operators.

The surgeons use a joystick to guide a catheter from the veins to the heart and scar tissue around problem vessels there.

McGavigan, an associate professor, says the machine results in better outcomes for heart patients because it can manipulate, stabilize and manoeuvre ablation catheters more precisely. The navigation of the catheter within the heart can be seen on a 3-D computer screen.

Use of the robotic system was less tiresome for surgeons.

About 80 more patients are scheduled for operation at the Flinders Private Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre.