Robotic surgery, also referred to as robot-assisted surgery, lets surgeons perform all kinds of complex procedures with more flexibility, precision and control than is typically possible with traditional surgical techniques. Robotic surgery is minimally invasive and uses special equipment, including a small video camera that provides magnified, 3-D images of the surgical field through keyhole incisions.
Surgeons have been using robot-assisted surgery for a variety of different procedures, such as:
Cardiac procedures like mitral valve repair and coronary artery bypass grafting
Laparoscopic procedures like removal of the appendix, kidney, uterus and gallbladder
Urological procedures like prostatectomy, cystectomy and ureteral reimplantation
Orthopaedic procedures like treatment for carpal tunnel
Beyond precision, robotic surgery comes with a few major benefits, including the following:
1. Shorter stays in the hospital
Because robotic surgery is minimally invasive, there is usually less of a need to keep people in the hospital for very long. Patients can go home and be with their loved ones sooner, which is usually the preferred recovery venue. Shorter hospital stays also translate to faster recovery times, which means you can get back on your feet and return to work and your routine sooner. Spending fewer days in the hospital also leads to cost savings, which is always a good thing in an already costly health system.
2. Reduced pain and discomfort
For many patients, recovering from surgery is tougher than undergoing the surgery itself. The smaller incisions needed by robotic surgery generally means patients feel less pain and discomfort following their procedure. For example, using undergoing robotic surgery instead of traditional open surgery for a chest procedure can mean you’ll need an uncomfortable chest tube for a shorter period of time.
3. Fewer complications
One of the most dire complications associated with traditional surgery is the risk for infection, and smaller incisions usually means the likelihood for infection is less. Instead of having the entire abdominal cavity opened for a procedure, the wound size associated with the robotic surgery is much smaller and easier to monitor and control.
Robotic surgery helps to reduce the amount of human error that occur during a procedure - making complications less likely. These complications can include damaging tissue unnecessarily or causing too much blood loss.
4. Lower levels of blood loss and transfusions
Maintaining normal blood levels during a surgical procedure is a top concern. Robotic surgery involves less blood loss because the three-dimensional view allows the surgeon to see blood vessels more easily than they can during traditional open surgery. This enhanced view, combined with the precise movements of the robotic instruments, means surgeons can better avoid blood vessels adjacent to the surgical field.
5. Minimal scarring
The potential for scarring is less due to the smaller size of the incisions. The incisions are referred to as “keyhole” incisions because they are generally small enough for the camera and robotic arms to be guided through. Procedures like appendix or gallbladder removal, which may have once required the surgeon to open the entire abdominal cavity, only need a few small incisions when robotic surgery is employed. Minimal scarring is definitely a reasonable cosmetic consideration for many people.
It’s important to know that robotic surgery, though beneficial, is not an option for all patients. Additionally, not all hospitals and doctors feel totally comfortable using the technology just yet. Make sure to speak with your doctor about the benefits as well as the potential risks associated with this technique to learn more about how it may work for you.