The ability to shrink oneself down and go inside the human body to examine its structures firsthand is still merely the stuff of science fiction. However, since the year 2000, surgeons have had the ability to accomplish almost the next best thing with robotic surgery. Over the course of nearly 20 years, the equipment and techniques involved have advanced to the point that robotic surgery can now accomplish many complex surgical procedures in a minimally invasive manner, with more being developed all the time.
How Does It Work?
During the procedure, the surgeon sits at a console in the operating room and uses a computer to control the robot. Using the master controls, the surgeon can perform the same movements that he or she would use to perform an open surgery, and the robot will mimic the movement perfectly.
The surgical robot has four operating arms. The first contains a small but powerful high-definition camera that transmits images to a stereoscopic monitor on the surgeon’s console, allowing the surgeon to see what he or she is doing. The other three arms contain miniaturized surgical instruments that may be constructed from surgical grade stainless steel.
What Are the Benefits?
The main benefit of robotic surgery for patients is that it is minimally invasive. Instead of making a large incision, the surgeon only needs to make a few small surgical incisions about one-quarter inch long. Minimally invasive surgery exposes patients to less risk of complications (e.g., infection or blood loss), helps to decrease recovery time, and causes only minimal scarring.
Robotic surgery offers benefits to physicians as well. It allows surgeons to perform procedures of unthinkable complexity and delicacy in a way that would have been impossible just a few decades ago. Some of these procedures could not be performed using any other method, while others could be accomplished only with difficulty. Surgeon fatigue is a concern in any procedure, but robotic surgery minimizes it because the console is designed so that the operating physician’s view of the surgical site is always aligned perfectly with his or her hands and eyes.