Dr. Nirav Patel is a general surgeon at Banner – University Medical Center Phoenix. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor or call (602) 230-2273 (CARE).
Question: I’ve been reading a lot about robotic surgery in the news. Is this technology better or riskier than other surgical approaches?
Answer: Robotic surgery has received a lot of attention in the last decade, particularly with the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the da Vinci, a robot with multiple arms used to perform minimally invasive surgeries with small instruments and incisions.
A surgeon controls the da Vinci system, which translates the surgeon's hand movements into smaller, more precise movements of surgical instruments inside the patient and provides three-dimensional, high-definition visualization. This technology has been used for prostate surgery, hysterectomy, weight loss procedures, gallbladder removal, and some cancer surgeries.
The value of a robotic surgery is the precision and visualization the robot affords the surgeon. The robot’s arms are steadier than a human’s and can be rotated and maneuvered in more ways than human hands. The minimally invasive nature of the surgery usually means shorter hospital stays, faster recovery, and minimal discomfort. As with any surgery, complications can occur in patients undergoing robotic assisted procedures, though with no higher frequency than other approaches.
All surgeons have to successfully complete a training course and be supervised during their first three procedures to be certified on the robotic system. Patients planning to have surgery should discuss all of their options with their surgeon, including conventional, laparoscopic and robotic procedures and the surgeon’s experience with each approach. Together, the surgeon and patient can determine what method will be most beneficial for the patient's specific condition.