Surgical robots have transformed how surgeons deliver medical solutions. Robot-assisted surgery allows doctors to perform complex surgical procedures faster and with more precision and control than was previously possible with conventional surgical techniques. Today, many surgeons frequently use robot-assisted surgery for various medical procedures. Among others, robotic surgery is used by general surgeons, urologists, gynecologic surgeons, colorectal surgeons, and cardiothoracic surgeons. Also known as robotic surgery, robot-assisted surgery comes with numerous benefits for both the patient and the surgeon. Doctors, through robotic technology, make tiny incisions that allow complex surgical procedures. Surgical robots are computer-controlled, self-powered devices programmed to aid surgeons in the positioning and manipulation of surgical instruments. During the procedure, three to four tiny robotic arms are inserted through a small incision on the patient’s body. One robotic arm holds a small camera while two arms assume the role of a surgeon’s hands. A fourth arm may help move tissue out of the way. Through a small console, the physician controls the robotic arms with a standby surgical team nearby for any needed assistance during the procedure. Because the robot’s “hands” are very dexterous, surgeons can operate in very tight body spaces that they would normally find very challenging to access through open surgery. The robotic arm’s reach is also greater than that of a human hand. In addition, robotic arms can rotate and maneuver the small surgical instruments in tight spaces in ways human hands cannot. A sophisticated high-definition camera provides enlarged 3D views of the surgical area that a human eye couldn’t possibly generate. Robot-assisted surgery is a great option when the surgeon needs to access hard to reach parts of the body. The tiny surgical instruments help avoid the necessity of the large incisions made when using conventional surgical tools. Since robotic surgery involves the use of smaller instruments, it becomes much easier to navigate around healthy tissue or organs. This reduces the potential impact the surgery can have on the patient’s body, as less tissue is touched or damaged. It also contributes to less pain and a more comfortable recovery journey. Robotic surgery is considered minimally invasive, and compared to conventional surgery tends to have a shorter recovery period. However, because people are very different, the healing times will of course vary for the same procedure. Also, patients can save on the cost of hospital stays, since most robot-assisted surgeries can be performed on an outpatient basis, which also saves time. Because of the greater precision and smaller incisions, the chances of surgical site infection are also reduced. Smaller incisions may also mean less bleeding and swelling after surgery. This can translate to requiring less pain-relieving medication that is typically associated with conventional surgery. Compared to conventional surgery, incidences of a patient requiring a blood transfusion or experiencing major complications after robot-assisted surgery are generally much fewer. However, it’s important to point out that robot-assisted surgery may not be an option for every procedure or patient. The suitability of the procedure will depend on the particular medical case. Therefore, patients should talk with their healthcare providers about the benefits, risks, and how robot-assisted surgery compares with conventional open surgery and other minimally invasive surgery options.
Karim Sarhane, MD