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Robotic-Assisted Laparoscopic Surgery

robot-assisted-surgeryI’d like to take some time to talk about robotic-assisted surgery.  During robotic surgery the cutting, sewing, and extraction is done by four robotic “arms” that are controlled by the surgeon, who sits behind a console unit with high definition 3-D imaging and controls.  Approved by the FDA, robotic-assisted surgeries are becoming more and more common.  Nowadays you can find robotic assisted heart surgery, hysterectomy, gall bladder removal, cancerous tumor removal, etc.

One of the biggest benefits of robotic-assisted surgery is the precision.  Robot arms do not tire or have movement restrictions, so awkward angles are not a problem.  Also, robotic-assisted surgery allows very small incisions– and as we know, the smaller the incision the less chance of having blood loss, infection, and pain during recovery.  And, obviously, the smaller the incision, the smaller the scar.

There are, however, a few disadvantages to robotic-assisted surgery.  The first would be human error at the controls.  Also, there’s the necessary training time and getting used to the controls.  Another is potential cost of the surgery (expensive machinery is expensive to maintain!).  But perhaps the biggest issue that I have with robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery is the inability for the surgeon to actually feel the surgery.  What do I mean by “feeling” the surgery?  As a surgeon, I am used to handling instruments, feeling the hardness or softness of tissues as I press against them or adjust them, and there is a certain way each tissue, organ, or cyst feels.  There’s no way a machine can translate that kind of tactile response to me.

I appreciate the technology that has allowed me (many years ago) to switch from performing regular abdominal surgery to minimally invasive surgery.  It’s better for our patients, it decreases surgical risks, and allows for a faster recovery time.  But I don’t see myself switching to robotic-assisted surgery anytime soon.

Posted in Surgery

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