When you are told you must have surgery, a million thoughts run through your mind, including:

  • How long will recovery take?
  • How big of a scar will I have?
  • How much pain will I be in?

These are certainly valid thoughts that you should address with your surgeon. However, there is one thing to make the process a little easier to take — robotic surgery! I know what you are thinking: having a robot operate on me isn’t appealing. Technology has not reached a point where machines operate autonomously. What is called robotic surgery is really remote surgery where the surgeon operates behind a console and controls instruments from across the room that are in the patient. Robotic surgery is a form of minimally invasive surgery where the instruments have more capability than standard laparoscopic instruments.

Benefits of Robotic Surgery

Before minimally invasive surgery, traditional “open” surgery was the course of action. It is still used, but minimally invasive surgery offers:

  1. Faster Recovery Time – Since it’s minimally invasive, there are no large incisions. Smaller incisions are made and the precise movements of the robotic arms prevent accidental nicks or cuts, which can cause bleeding and infections.
  2. Less Pain and Blood Loss – With large incisions, there is a greater amount of pain and blood loss. Hence, smaller incisions made by the robot means less pain. This means less dependence on pain medication. There is also the reduced risk of blood loss and the avoidance of a blood transfusion.
  3. Less Risk of Infection – The risk of infection in a hospital is great, no matter the procedure or illness. However, with robotic surgery, the risk of infection is greatly reduced because of the small incisions. With a large incision, more of the body is exposed to bacteria and/or viruses. The complications (e.g. sepsis) that stem from infections are greatly reduced as well.  

Surgical robots offer increase range of motion, motion scaling, and tremor filtration. They use a system that adds increased depth perception by offering stereopsis (two-eyed vision). These enhancements mean surgical robots are a better choice for certain procedures, such as radical prostatectomy or radical or partial nephrectomy. As a resident, I spent a year in the lab working on developing techniques to apply surgical robotics in pediatric surgery. Also, I authored or co-authored numerous papers on the topic.