Have you heard about or ever considered robotic surgery?
It may sound futuristic, but it actually offers several benefits to patients—such as a faster recovery, a shorter hospital stay and less pain. Additional benefits include small incisions, less scarring and a decreased risk of infection.
Is robotic surgery right for you?
OB-GYN Eric English, MD, answers some of the most common questions about robotic surgery.
Q: What is robotic surgery?
A: Strangely enough, it doesn’t involve a robot at all. Robotic surgery is a surgical platform, or tool, that enables my hands to use small-wristed laparoscopic instruments to achieve surgical goals.
Q: What is robotic surgery currently used for?
A: The da Vinci robot has shown utility across several fields. Gynecologic surgeries for hysterectomies, fibroid removals, pelvic support and endometriosis excision have been the most popular. Urology has made great advances by using it for prostate cancer surgery and kidney removal. General surgeons are beginning to make strides with single-incision gall bladder removals, hiatal hernia repairs (Nissen fundoplication) and anti-obesity surgeries. Cardiac surgeons have shown success with some forms of valve repair, working the instruments between the ribs so that the chest doesn’t have to be split open. I suspect Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT), along with pediatrics, will soon be using this technology as well.
A: The surgeon has greater precision, accuracy and control over the tissue involved. The bright 3-D optics, comfort of operating in a sitting position and ability to have the machine do the heavy lifting as you effortlessly move your fingers means that surgeon fatigue is less likely to negatively affect the surgical case. The da Vinci robot makes difficult laparoscopic tasks much easier to perform, and you don’t have to compromise on a single cut. The wristed action of the microsurgical scissors allows surgeons to turn around curves and cut at impossible angles using traditional approaches. This means shorter surgery times, lower estimated blood loss and a significantly faster recovery for the patient.
Q: How does the recovery time from robotic surgery differ from the traditional surgical methods?
A: Most casework is same-day surgery in gynecology. If the patient limits daily activity the first two weeks, the bulk of the post-op inflammation has resolved, and they can return to work and other daily activities without terrible consequences. With traditional methods, we’d see a longer duration until the patient sensed they were normal. It wasn’t uncommon to take six weeks off work back then. Luckily, times are continuing to change with these new innovations.
Q: Is there an ideal patient for this type of surgery?
A: Really anyone can benefit from this approach if their heart and lungs are healthy.
Q: How can I find out if robotic surgery is right for me?
A: Your primary care doctor can help determine if robotic surgery is right for you. If you know you have a problem that robotics could improve, don’t be afraid to reach out to robotically trained physicians in the community to see what they can specifically offer you in consultation.