What is robotic surgery?


Quick Answer

Robotic surgery is a minimally invasive form of surgery that uses miniature tools mounted on robotic arms. A surgeon directs the robotic arms from a computer terminal, using 3-D images taken by an endoscopically inserted camera. The surgeon remains in the same room as the patient, eliminating the possibility of latency between his commands and the robotic arm's movements.

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Full Answer

Robotic surgery requires smaller incisions than traditional surgery and allows surgeons to avoid traumatic techniques such as cracking the sternum to reach the heart. This leads to shorter recovery times, less bleeding, a lowered risk of infection and less scarring. Robotic surgery also has advantages over more traditional minimally invasive procedures, most prominently that it helps reduce surgeon fatigue. These advantages for the patient are balanced against the same risks any surgery carries.

All surgery comes with some risk of infection and bleeding, as well as the risks inherent in receiving general anaesthesia. Robotic surgery minimizes but does not eliminate the surgical risks and does nothing to reduce the possible complications of general anaesthesia.

Robotic surgery systems have a high up-front cost and significant annual maintenance costs, making them expensive for hospitals to maintain. This expense is the primary barrier for adoption in many facilities, especially when older techniques such as laparoscopic surgery confer many of the same patient benefits.

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