All you need to know about robotic surgery
Robotic surgery is a technique in which small instruments are handled by the arm of the robot, while the surgeon sits at a console a few feet away and gets three dimensional real time views of the surgery from start to end. Robotic surgery or robot assisted surgery is already happening in many countries in Europe and the United States.
Procedure of robotic surgery
The patient must be fasting for at least eight hours before the surgery. If the patient is undergoing an abdominal surgery, bowel has to be prepared by administering enema. Medications like aspirin, blood thinners and vitamins should be stopped a few days before the surgery as per your doctor’s advice.
Under general anaesthesia, smaller incisions are made on the patient’s body as opposed to traditional surgery. The robotic arm is fitted with small instruments to carry out the surgery. The surgeon directs the instruments to do what he wants by sitting close to the controls. It is a great way to perform minimally invasive surgery, and although the surgeon cannot feel or touch the insides of the body, the three dimensional views compensate for this.
Advantages of robotic surgery
The cost is similar or more than a traditional surgery, but patients recuperate faster.
Hospital stay is minimised, post surgery pain is less due to minimal handling of tissues and so the patient recuperates faster.
In complex surgeries, for e.g. when removing cancer tissue from around delicate structures like blood vessels and nerves, it is a boon.
It can be used for many common surgeries like a hysterectomy and tying of the tubes in women, prostate removal, kidney transplant, kidney removal, gall bladder removal and hip replacement.
It can also be used for heart surgery like mitral valve repair.
Chances of infection are less than with open surgery.
It offers more flexibility and precision during the surgery and there are no chances of the surgeons hand shaking so human errors are eliminated.
Disadvantages of robotic surgery
When introduced initially, the cost may be a prohibiting factor hence it may not be easily available.
Surgeons need to be taught about robot assisted surgeries in the medical curriculum.
Complex surgeries like coronary artery bypass surgery for blocked coronary arteries may be difficult due to minute sewing up of the blood vessel walls.
Risks of anaesthesia remain the same, chances of infection are slight.
Robotic surgery is here to stay. Its advantages far outweigh any disadvantages. It is a new field and research and tests are still underway to ascertain how it can best help surgeons. It is definitely better for the patient as there is minimal loss of blood and minimal handling of tissues. Smaller scars will be more acceptable than the bigger scars of traditional open surgery.
It is also better than endoscopic surgery due to the magnified views it gives which are better than what the camera through the scope provides.
Photograph via Creative Commons
Written by Dr Nisreen Nakhoda, General Physician
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