What is Robotic Surgery?
Robotic surgery is laparoscopic surgery, or minimally invasive ‘small incision’ surgery, and is controlled by the surgeon while using a digital computer. The technique is the same as laparoscopic surgery (done with a camera and small incisions) but the surgeon operates through a computer away from the operative field allowing the surgeon to have more ‘hands’ but through small incisions. Instead of having two hands, the surgeon can have three or four arms to help with the surgery. The robot is over the patient holding the sterile surgical instruments, while the surgeon controls the robot through a computer away from the sterile field.
Why Robotic Surgery?
The urologic and gynecologic surgeons first began using the robot to aid with surgical procedures within the pelvis and lower abdomen for prostate and uterine surgery. The general surgeons then started using the robotic surgery technique to repair groin hernias because the pelvis is a narrow space with important structures. Robotic surgery gave the surgeon more visualization in a small space with allowing better manipulation and flexibility, allowing them to do more complicated surgery through small incisions. The use of the robot requires specific training that surgeons must undergo before being able to use this highly specialized and high definition equipment.
What are the Benefits of Robotic Surgery?
Robotic surgery is increasingly being used more for groin and abdominal wall hernia repairs due to the surgeon’s ability to get into smaller spaces and increased accuracy while doing surgery through smaller incisions. Traditionally, surgeons were doing open surgical repairs for hernias and abdominal wall defects, but the hernia recurrence rate and infection rates were higher, along with increased narcotic use and longer hospital stays. You can read more about how minimally invasive surgeries can even help the opioid crisis, from Dr. Amini HERE.
The increasing use of robotic surgery has led to patients returning to work/daily activities quicker, patients use less postoperative pain medication, and have a shorter length of hospital stay. The robot allows the surgeon to have 3D vision, as opposed to 2D vision with laparoscopic surgery. This has become such a success in treating patients, that now surgeons are using robotic surgery for larger abdominal wall defect repairs, for colon surgery, pancreatic surgery, and other types of complicated procedures that would otherwise require a large abdominal incision.