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What Is Robotic Surgery and Is It Better?

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Updated March 09, 2011

Da Vinci Robotic Surgery, Robotic Surgery

The Da Vinci Robot

© 2009 Intuitive Surgical, Inc.
Question: What Is Robotic Surgery and Is It Better?
Answer:

What is Robotic Surgery?

Robotic surgery is just what it sounds like, surgery performed by a robot. Don’t misunderstand, the surgeon hasn’t been replaced by a robot exactly, the surgeon controls the robot. Technically speaking, the robot assists the surgeon with the procedure.

The robot “filters” the tiny tremors that occur in even the steadiest surgeon’s hands, making the movement desired by the doctor, but with a precision that human hands are not capable of. Robots aren’t appropriate for all surgeries, however, for some procedures a robot can offer a remarkable improvement over the standard operative technique. The ideal procedures for the use of a robot are typically ones that require extremely small movements by the surgeon. Neurosurgery (brain and spinal cord) procedures are an example of surgeries that can benefit from the robot, sparing extremely sensitive tissues.

A millimeter decrease in the movement of a scalpel can make a tremendous difference in the surgical outcome because it means that nerves and delicate tissues can be spared. One surgery that has shown dramatically improved outcomes since the implementation of robotic techniques is prostate surgery. The robot is instrumental in sparing the nerves that allow the patient to obtain an erection after surgery in a greater percentage of cases than was possible before the robot.

Robots are extremely expensive, the current system, The Da Vinci Surgical Robot , is approximately 2 million dollars. Due to the expense, the system is typically found in the largest teaching hospitals. Specialized training is also required for a surgeon to operate the robot.

Sources:

Comparing Robotic Versus Open Prostate Surgery. Henry Ford Health System. Accessed August, 2009. http://www.henryfordhealth.org/19085.cfm

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