Historically, physicians have had to make large incisions in the human body to access the area that needs surgery. They cut through tissue and muscle – and, sometimes bones.
All of this – while often necessary – is traumatic to the body.
With the robotic system, surgeons gain the access they need through tiny incisions that heal quickly.
An open hysterectomy, for example, is done through a large incision across the abdomen. Patients are in the hospital two to four days and need six to eight weeks to recover.
In comparison, women who have a robotic hysterectomy are ready to go home in 24 hours or less, and are back to normal activities within two weeks.
Large incisions are more painful after surgery. Robotic surgery is not without discomfort, but the amount of post-surgical pain is dramatically reduced.
Patients undergoing certain open procedures, for example, need medication injected into a catheter in their spines or use a hand-held narcotics pump to control pain. With robotic procedures, most patients stop using oral narcotics within 24 hours.
All surgeries have some degree of risk and it is important to discuss this with your doctor.
The long incisions of open surgery typically have a greater potential for complications. While not common, these can include surgical-site infection and bleeding.
The small incisions of robotic surgery minimize these risks. Also, because patients who have robotic surgery are up and moving around much sooner, the risk of blood clots – particularly in the legs – is greatly reduced.
Most of us know someone who has had laparoscopic surgery – a knee injury repaired or a gall bladder removed. Like robotic surgery, laparoscopic surgery involves operating through small incisions.
But robotic 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.” They are also challenging to maneuver during suturing.
Robotic 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 robotic surgery, they view it through a finder on the console. The surgeon’s view is both magnified and in 3-D – both significant improvements.
Because of these differences, many surgeons who used to perform certain procedures laparoscopically are now doing them robotically.