What is robotic surgery?
Robotic-assisted surgery is essentially minimally-invasive surgery (or key-hole incision surgery) using a motion-capable computer between me and the patient.
What type of patients are eligible for robotic surgery?
The ideal robot-assisted patient is an individual who has not had many abdominal surgeries. The subset of surgery patients who would not be considered to be candidates for the robotic approach is very small. The robot allows us to perform a minimally-invasive surgery on more patients than ever before because we can see better with the robot, and the dexterity of the instruments is so good. Ultimately, the decision will be up to the surgeon and the patient's primary care physician.
What should patients know when considering robotic surgery?
The patient should know that the surgeon manually connects the patient to the robot. He or she then sits in the console a few feet away from the patient. We use micro-surgical instruments which essentially become the surgeons hands and view the anatomy through a 3-D vision system (like a pair of binoculars) with magnification 10 times that of the naked eye to perform the procedure. It makes for a more safe, ergonomic, detailed surgery.
What are the benefits of robotic surgery?
The benefits of robotic surgery are many. Patients will generally experience less blood loss during surgery, less pain following surgery, and fewer postoperative complications including infection. This allows for a faster recovery and less scarring. With the increase dexterity of the robot as well as the advantage of 3-D optics it makes for a better and safer operation. These factors combined frequently allow the patient to return to normal activity faster.
What are the possible downsides to robotic hernia surgery?
As with any surgery, there are risks to the patient. I will say that because of the exceptional visualization allows for more precise manipulation of the tissue by the surgeon using the robot, many of us feel that robotic surgery is safer than other approaches. Any surgical tool (and the root is just a sophisticated tool) is only as good as the surgeon using it. To date, I have performed thousands of minimally-invasive procedures, an ever increasing number of these with the robot. Robotic assisted surgery is a new technology and as of yet there are no long term follow up studies but the preliminary experience and results from early clinical data are promising.
What are the other treatment options and how is robotic surgery different?
Your three basic surgical options are 1) Open, 2) Laparoscopic, and 3) Robotic. Robotic surgery is different because of the superior visualization with the 3-D vision system and the markedly increased dexterity of the instruments, allowing for a overall safer surgery.
Why would someone elect robotic surgery over the other options?
I feel your chances of complications, although already low, are further reduced because of the superior instruments and visualization allowed by the robot.
What is the most important thing that patients should know about robotic surgery that they probably don’t?
The most common misconception regarding robotic surgery is that patients think “the robot” is performing their surgery. On the contrary, I have absolute control over every movement made by the robot. The robot literally just copies and miniaturizes my exact hand motions with small specialized instruments inside the patient.