Robot-assisted surgery is one of medical technology’s great leaps forward, and is quickly gaining widespread popularity. Robot-assisted surgery not only offers many benefits to patients, but also allows surgeons to overcome many of the limitations of traditional surgery, especially in the more complex and difficult-to-access areas within the body.
How Does a Robot Assist in Surgery?
In robot–assisted surgery, with the da Vinci System (da Vinci Robot), a surgeon is able to manipulate the robot to perform controlled, surgical procedures, such as dissection and suturing. The main components of the da Vinci System include:
- A microscope that produces magnified 3D imagery so that the surgeon can see a high-definition representation of the internal organs, muscle tissues, and nerve endings.
- An ergonomically designed console, which allows the surgeon to sit before a 3D monitor to manipulate the robot during surgery.
- Wristed instruments that can bend and rotate in up to 7 directions. When used in surgery, a regular laparoscope is only able to move in 4 directions. The da Vinci System, therefore offers greater freedom of movement than the human hand, and as well offers higher precision and stability due to its anti-tremor technology.
- A patient-side cart, where the patient is positioned during surgery, designed especially for use with the da Vinci System.
To introduce the robotic instruments to the body, the surgeon will make 5 small incisions in the patient’s abdomen, around the navel area. The surgeon will then sit at the console for the duration of the surgery, and manipulate the arms of the robot via a monitor. The da Vinci System will transmit micro-scaled signals from the movement of the surgeon’s hands, which will then translate into microscopic, controlled movements of the robot arms operating in the patient’s body.
The da Vinci System has 4 arm instruments: Arm 1 is used to hold the 3D microscope that transmits images of the patient’s internal organs to the monitor; arms 2 and 3 are responsible for dissecting and suturing tissues; and arm 4 is responsible for moving the surrounding tissues, if necessary, to prevent interference and obstruction.
Benefits of Robot-Assisted Surgery
Robots are now used in many types of surgery, including colorectal surgery, gynecological surgery, head and neck surgery, thoracic surgery, and urologic surgery.
The da Vinci System is often used to perform prostatectomies in the treatment of prostate cancer. The prostate is a difficult organ to access due to its location. The prostate surrounds the urethra just below the bladder, and is located in close proximity to the front of the rectum at the end of the bowel. There is also a delicate plexus of nerves around the prostate gland, which presents further obstacles for surgery in stage 1, 2, and some stage 3 prostate cancer patients. Thus, the da Vinci System is extremely valuable.
Compared with open abdominal surgery and laparoscopic surgery, robot-assisted prostate cancer surgery has the following advantages:
- Helps to control the cancer more effectively.
- Patients feel less pain, spend less time in hospital during treatment, and recover faster due to minimal surgical wounds.
- Surgery is high precision; the robot can move around freely and the surgeon is able to view a clear, magnified image of the organ.
- The robot is better at avoiding nerves around the prostate gland that control urine retention and erectile function. It is therefore much more likely that after treatment the patient’s bladder control and sexual function will be unaffected by surgery.
- Less time spent in surgery compared to the laparoscopic approach; less blood loss.
- Less chance of complications after surgery, such as infections and edema.
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