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Robotic Surgery: What do you need to know?

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

Raghavendra Babu doing Robotic surgery
Dr Raghavendra Babu operating the console of daVinci Robot

What is Robotic Surgery?

Robotic Surgery is a type of "minimally invasive" surgery. Minimally invasive surgery means, instead of operating on patients with large incisions, we use multiple small 1 cm incisions to insert thin long surgical instruments and a camera to the operating site and operate seeing the video. In Robotic surgery, these thin long instruments are connected to robotic arms along with a 3D high definition camera and the surgeon operates sitting at the console. The surgeon’s hand, wrist and finger movements are transmitted through the computer console to the instruments attached to the robot’s arms. The mimicked movements have the same range of motion as the surgeon allowing maximum control. There is always an assistant surgeon beside the patient during the procedure.

Robotic surgery
Patient docked to Robot and assistant surgeon is beside the patient

What are the advantages of Robotic Surgery over other types of "Minimally invasive" surgery like Laparoscopic Surgery?

Robotic surgery is the most advanced form of "minimally invasive" surgery. Major advantages for surgeons using robotic surgery over conventional laparoscopic surgery include:

  • Greater visualization: The 3D High definition vision offered in daVinci Robot is unparalled in conventional laparoscopic surgery. This gives 10 times the magnification of naked eye and the 3D vision gives depth perception which makes the whole experience better and safer for the patient.

  • Enhanced dexterity: The robotic instruments have freedom of movement similar to human hand with six degrees of freedom. This allows for advanced surgeries to be done with confidence. It also allows surgeons to master techniques like suturing inside and to face and manage major bleeding efficiently through robotic instruments itself.

Robotic surgery at console
Control of instruments at console

  • Greater precision : Robotic instruments also filters the tremors of movement of a surgeon and allows for smooth movements while operating. Also, motion scaling can be done to do fine movements even if the surgeon does gross movements in the console.

What are the advantages to the patient in doing advanced surgery through "Minimally Invasive" Robotic surgery?

With Robotic surgery, we can do advanced surgical procedures like cancer surgery using minimally invasive techniques. This may not have been possible using conventional laparoscopic surgery. The major advantages to the patient are:

  • Fewer complications, such as surgical site infection

  • Less pain and blood loss

  • Quicker recovery

  • Smaller, less noticeable scars.

What are the disadvantages of Robotic Surgery?

Robotic technology is evolving and is generally considered as the future of surgery. The major disadvantages of robotic surgery are:

  • Lack of tactile perception: The surgeon cannot feel the tissue for its hardness or softness. This tactile sensation may be important in cancer surgery to know the margins. This disadvantage can be overcome by using intra-operative ultrasound and having good case load of robotic surgery.

  • Cost: Robotic surgery is known to be more expensive than conventional laparoscopic surgery or open surgery. But there have been studies showing that even though the surgical cost is more, it can be overcome as the hospital stay is less and the person returns to work quicker than open surgery.

Can Robotic Surgery be used for all surgeries?

Robotic surgery isn't an option for everyone. There are few surgical procedures, which have to be done in open surgical methods. 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.

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