Imagine you are facing major surgery, and you have two options. You can choose to have a surgery done using the traditional open method, which may require a large incision to be made. Or you could choose a robotic surgery. Considered the most innovative form of minimally invasive surgery now available, it promises smaller incisions, less noticeable scars, less pain and a quicker recovery. But here’s the rub: you have to let a robot do your surgery, right? Not exactly.
Robotic surgery is also called robot-assisted surgery for a reason. The technology has increasingly allowed surgeons treating specific conditions—related to gynecology, urology, general surgery, orthopedics and beyond—to do more for patients, while inflicting less pain, than ever before. In some ways, you might say it turns surgeons into super surgeons.
Consider a robotic tool like the da Vinci® Xi System at CarePoint Health. Andrea Vidali, MD, says the technology is more than an extension of a person’s hands, but an expansion of the eyes and mind.
“It augments one’s capabilities to get to the smallest areas with a beautiful 3-D image. So we can achieve a level of precision that makes the surgery much safer. It’s really an amazing tool,” says Vidali, a reproductive endocrinologist and renowned expert in complex procedures related to fertility enhancement and preservation.
As a robotic surgeon, Dr. Andrea Vidali uses the da Vinci system to treat conditions like endometriosis using a new technological advancement called fluorescence. A dye lights up the problematic tissue—allowing surgeons to visualize and treat small amounts of endometriosis that otherwise would not be seen.
The technique is used in other specialized surgeries, such as to differentiate cancerous from healthy tissue. In the case of something like kidney surgery, using fluorescence with robotic surgery to spare tissue means that more patients can keep the healthy part of a kidney rather than losing the entire organ.
Capabilities like these are some of the frequently cited benefits of robotic surgery.
8 benefits of robot-assisted surgery
- Smaller incisions —The top advantage of robotic surgery is that it involves smaller incisions. Because the da Vinci Xi has very small, thin arms, incisions needed to gain access to a specific part of the body can be a fraction of what they would be in traditional surgery.
- Less scarring—Because the incisions are smaller, the scars that remain after a surgery are tiny and sometimes hardly even noticeable.
- Greater visualization and control—During da Vinci robotic surgery, the surgeon sits at a computer console in the operating room with the surgical team supervising the robot at the patient’s bedside. The surgeon:
- Controls miniaturized instruments mounted on three robotic arms to make tiny incisions.
- Looks through a 3-D, high definition camera attached to a fourth robotic arm, which magnifies the surgical site. This highly magnified view virtually extends the eyes of the surgeon.
- Transmits hand, wrist and finger movements through the computer console to the instruments attached to the robot’s arms allowing for maximum control.
- Less pain and discomfort—Patients who choose robotic surgery often report less pain than they’ve experienced during past traditional surgery. Thanks to smaller incisions, the surgery is more comfortable.
- Fewer drugs for pain management—Because the pain is often lighter and lasts for a shorter period, patients frequently need fewer pills or other pain alleviating techniques.
- Shorter hospital stays—After robotic surgery, patients are less likely to need long hospital stays. Many times patients stay overnight or even go home the same day as their surgery.
- Possibly fewer side effects—There is still a lot of research and information gathering that needs to be done; however, male patients who have a prostatectomy using robotic surgery could have less chance for erectile issues, and other types of urological surgeries that use robotic surgery may represent a reduced chance of urinary tract infections.
- Faster return to normal life—Because patients who have robotic surgery have smaller incisions, spend less time in the hospital and take fewer pain medications they usually have a quick return to their normal life.
Robotic surgery isn't an option for everyone or for every surgery. CarePoint Health is currently performing approximately 25 different urological, gynecological and general surgery robotic procedures. If you are having surgery and are wondering if you can request robotic surgery, talk with your doctor about the benefits and risks of robotic surgery and how it compares with other techniques, such as other types of minimally invasive surgery and conventional open surgery.
4 things to know about robotic surgery
- Robotic surgery is an advanced form of minimally invasive or laparoscopic (small incision) surgery where surgeons use a computer-controlled robot to assist them in certain surgical procedures. The robot does not perform the surgery. The surgeon controls the robotic arms and performs the procedure.
- Robotic surgery allows surgeons to perform delicate and complex procedures that may be difficult with other methods. The robot’s arms have a high degree of precision and flexibility, allowing surgeons the ability to operate in very tight spaces in the body that would otherwise only be accessible through open (long incision) surgery.
- Surgeons who perform robotic surgery find that for many procedures it enhances accuracy and control during the operation and allows them to better see the site.
- Robotic surgery systems vary and there are several types of robotic surgery systems that hospitals use. CarePoint Health uses two leading edge systems:
- The da Vinci Xi System, the most advanced technology of its kind. In 2014, CarePoint teams performed the first procedure in New Jersey using the da Vinci Xi, and have since performed hundreds of minimally invasive robot-assisted procedures.
- The RIO® Robotic Arm Interactive Orthopedic System, a surgeon-controlled robotic arm system that allows surgeons to personalize partial knee and total hip arthroplasties with a level of accuracy that was previously unattainable with conventional instrumentation. CarePoint Health is one of the first healthcare systems in the region to offer MAKOplasty® Partial Knee Resurfacing and MAKOplasty Total Hip Replacement procedures using the RIO.
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Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.