Advantages for Patients
Ask an experienced surgeon to list the advantages of robotic surgery. In addition to the flexibility of the instruments, they always mention: the ability to see the surgical site so clearly.
- The endoscopic camera has two "stereoscopic" lenses that allow the surgeon to see in 3-D through the viewfinder on the console
- The surgeon controls the camera and can move it to get the best view
- Everything is magnified, and the amount of magnification is controlled by the surgeon
Patients heal faster
With the robotic system, surgeons gain access through tiny incisions that heal quickly.
An open hysterectomy, for example, is done through a large incision across the abdomen. Patients stay in the hospital two to four days and need six to eight weeks to recover.
In comparison, women who have a robot-assisted hysterectomy can go home in 24 hours or less, and return to normal activities within two weeks.
Patients experience much less pain
Large incisions are more painful after surgery. Robot-assisted surgery, though not without discomfort, dramatically reduces post-surgical pain.
For example, patients undergoing certain open procedures need medication injected into a catheter in their spines or use a hand-held narcotics pump to control pain. With robot-assisted procedures, most patients stop using oral narcotics within 24 hours.
The risk of complications is typically reduced
All surgeries involve some degree of risk, and you should discuss potential complications with your doctor.
The long incisions used in open surgery typically bring a greater risk of complications. While uncommon, these complications can include surgical-site infection and bleeding.
The small incisions of robot-assisted surgery minimize such risks. Also, because patients who have robot-assisted surgery are up and moving around much sooner, the risk of blood clots, particularly in the legs, is greatly reduced.
What about laparoscopy?
Most of us know someone who has had laparoscopic surgery, such as a repaired knee injury or a gallbladder removal. Like robot-assisted surgery, laparoscopic surgery involves operating through small incisions.
But robot-assisted surgery takes laparoscopy to a much higher level.
With conventional laparoscopy, surgeons operate using long, rigid instruments. These tools are challenging to use in tight spaces, such as the pelvis. It has often been compared to “operating using chopsticks.” The instruments are also challenging to maneuver during suturing.
Robot-assisted surgery uses flexible instruments that fit more easily into tight spaces and mimic the motion of the surgeon’s hands and wrists.
With conventional laparoscopy, surgeons view the operation on a flat-screen monitor. With robot-assisted surgery, surgeons use a finder on the console. The surgeon’s view is significantly improved through magnification and 3-D. Because of these differences, many physicians are switching from laparoscopic to robot-assisted surgery.