Robot Surgery: How Far We Have Come

As soon as the digital revolution started in the late 1950s, tech-enthusiasts started chanting that robotics will dominate the future on Earth.

Robotics is most definitely conquering the world. Whether it is space exploration, agriculture, or the medical industry, robots are assisting humans to excel at anything and everything.

If we look at the medical industry, in the US alone more than 250,000 people die each year due to medical errors or negligence.

Many of these fatal mistakes are preventable. Keeping this in mind scientists and engineers have developed robotics that gives surgeons precise control over a range of motions required to perform several procedures.

These machines use high-definition vision and controls that allow the surgeons to make tiny and exact incisions to perform minimally invasive surgeries.

The concept of robots performing surgery on our bodies is kind of scary and intriguing at the same time. It is mindboggling how much robotics has progressed.

However, the main question here is how can robots even operate on us? This is exactly what we have answered in this article.

This article is all about helping you gain the right perspective when it comes to robotic surgery and understand how it is crucial for the betterment of medical science.

Robotic surgery works based on feedback from the surgeon. It allows the surgeon to operate while accessing the affected area with the help of cameras and special controls.

What is Robotic Surgery?

Before we move on to how robotic advancements have revolutionized the world of medical science, let’s take a look at what robotic surgery is and what it entails.

Robotic surgery, also known as robot-assisted surgery, is an advanced form of minimally invasive medical procedure.

These computer-aided robots allow doctors to perform the most complex operations with minimum error, high precision, control, and flexibility.

The procedures are performed by making tiny incisions, as opposed to traditional surgeries that require surgeons to make cuts that are 6 inches or longer.

Controls are strapped to the surgeon’s wrists and hands. Based on the feedback from the surgeon, the robot arms make exact incisions to access the area that needs to be operated on.

Since human hands, as compared to robot probes, are larger and require more room to move around, these machines help in performing minimally invasive surgeries with high precision.

There are several different types of robotic surgeries, however, the most common ones involve the surgeon using a console to control the robotic arms.

The console usually has both hand and foot controls that allow the surgeons to move different parts of the machine meticulously.

Minimally Invasive Surgery

In most cases, doctors nowadays opt for minimally invasive surgeries since they incur less damage to the body and the patient is able to recover with less pain and fewer complications.

It also results in an overall shorter stay at the hospital which is not only better for the patient but is also very cost-effective.

Other benefits of minimally invasive surgeries include less loss of blood, smaller scars, and a lower risk of infection.

As mentioned, robotic surgery is also a form of minimally invasive surgery that allows surgeons to perform complex procedures by making tiny incisions.

In robotic surgery, miniaturized instruments are inserted into the body along with a high-definition 3D camera.

These devices are manipulated using a console by the surgeon. As compared to human hands, the robotic probes are incrementally thinner, which means that can easily navigate in tight spaces with a high degree of dexterity.

Hence, the incisions made are less than an inch in size.

There are several different types of robotic surgeries designed to perform different minimally invasive operations.

One example of minimally invasive surgery is cardiac surgery. Nowadays, it can be performed using the Da Vinci surgical robot while making small incisions instead of a foot-long cut that is made in open-heart surgery.

Benefits of Robotic Surgery

Robotic surgeries have proved to be beneficial and have reduced the risk of infections and other complications in complex surgeries.

Many surgeons have reported that their success rate spiked as soon as they started to opt for robotic surgery in complex procedures.

Some of the benefits of robotic surgery are:

  • They can help automate repetitive tasks to save time and effort.
  • Robotic surgery improves the precision, flexibility, and control during the procedure.
  • It provides a better view of the area that has to be operated on as well as the surrounding areas since most surgical robots use 3D cameras.
  • Delicate and complex procedures are made easier.
  • There are minimum post-op complications such as less pain, less blood loss, lower risk of infection, and less noticeable scars.

Disadvantages of Robotic Surgery

Robotic surgeries do not have any disadvantages that are exclusively experienced because of the use of machines and consoles.

However, there are some risks involved that are considered common post-op complications. Some of these complications are:

  • Infection of the surgical site
  • Delayed recovery
  • Risk of nerve compression and damage
  • Surgeon might have to shift to open surgery in case of a complication
  • The technology needs specially trained personnel for maintenance
  • Surgical robots can be expensive

Procedures Routinely Performed with Robot Surgery

Over the years, thanks to the advancement of surgical robots, surgeons have excelled at performing several complicated operations with the help of robots.

Some of the most commonly performed robot surgeries include:

  • Cardiac surgery using Da Vinci surgical robot.
  • Colorectal called rectopexy using Da Vinci surgical robot.
  • General surgery like inguinal hernia repair using Da Vinci surgical robot.
  • Gynecologic surgery like hysterectomy using Da Vinci surgical robot.
  • Transolar robotic-assisted surgery.
  • Thoracic surgery using Da Vinci surgical robot.
  • Procedures related to prostate and kidney.

Qualifications a Doctor Needs to Perform Robotic Surgery

Not all doctors can perform robotic surgery. They need to undergo proper training to efficiently run the controls of a surgical robot.

To perform robotic surgery, there are a few prerequisites. These include:

  • The doctor has to be a surgeon or a specialist.
  • He/she should undergo proper training for robotic surgery.
  • He/she should spend a few months in apprenticeship to learn the proper way of navigating inside the human body.

Many medical schools are currently hosting programs that allow surgeons to learn about and use robotic surgery.

Contemporary Surgical Robots

Over the years, many surgical robots have been designed to help medical professionals improve the way surgeries are performed.

Some of these robots have been in use for almost five decades now. However, constant improvements have made them more precise and accurate.

Da Vinci Surgical Robot

As of now, Da Vinci surgical robot is the only commercially available system for general robotic-assisted surgery.

It is a successor of the ZEUS robotic surgical system that was discontinued in 2003.

It involves strapping controls to the surgeon’s wrists and hands to make incisions and navigate inside the human body.

It has a 3D high-definition camera along with miniaturized tools that allow the surgeon to perform the necessary steps with skill and control.

Over the years, thousands of surgeons around the world have been trained on da Vinci systems and have completed approximately 7 million surgical procedures using this surgical robot.

CyberKnife

Another type of surgical robot commonly used is the CyberKnife which is designed to provide radiation therapy for tumors.

Unlike traditional methods, the CyberKnife provides sub-millimeter precision and is currently being employed in several cancer hospitals all over the US.

The robot is used to deliver radiation to a tumor from all sides at a certain angle. Normally, the patient has to be repositioned in order to provide the radiation with a clear path to the tumor.

However, thanks to CyberKnife the patient can sit comfortably while the machine does its work.

Final Thoughts

The number of surgeons and hospitals making a shift towards robotic surgeries is increasing by the day.

If we look at the current numbers, on average the rate of robotic surgeries is increasing by 25 percent annually.

One of the main reasons surgeons are optimistically adopting this technology is that they only have to make two or three small incisions.

In addition to this, the blood transfusion rates in robotic surgery can be as low as 0 percent.

The rapid advancements in this field have even allowed surgeons to perform a few unmanned surgeries. The first unmanned robotic surgery was performed in Italy in 2006.

At this point, it is imperative to note that this is only the beginning of an era of technological advancements in medicine, there’s a lot more to come.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is robotic surgery better than traditional surgery?

Yes, the risks involved are considerably lower in robotic surgery.

What is the success rate of robotic surgery?

The success rate of robotic surgery ranges from 94% to 100%.

Is robotic surgery painful?

Yes, it is painful since you have to deal with a few incisions but the recovery time is way lower than traditional surgery.

How long does robotic surgery take?

Most procedures take around two to three hours including recovery.

How much does a robotic surgery cost?

A single robot costs about $2 million.