With the robotic-assisted surgery arena growing bigger by the day—and commanded solely by the company behind da Vinci® robots—it’s no wonder that people may be becoming concerned about where the doctor ends and the machine begins (or simply fear robots will replace human beings altogether). In fact, these robots can be used in a variety of procedures—including urological, colorectal, cardiac, gynecological and thoracic surgeries. For urologists, the da Vinci robot is most commonly used to perform surgery for prostate cancer, as well as:
- Bladder surgery
- Kidney surgery
- Urinary obstruction surgery
- Uterine and vaginal vault prolapse surgery
We’re here to cast a better light on this misunderstood and life-changing surgical technique by dispelling some well-circulated myths and give you peace of mind when discussing your surgical options.
Myth #1: The robot performs the surgery and the surgeon is hands-off.
Fact: Though the word robot may imply autonomy, the robot serves as nothing more than a tool—not a replacement—for a surgeon.
During a robotic-assisted surgery, the surgeon is stationed at a console and manipulates the arms of the robot using hand and foot controls. When the surgeon stops, so does the robot; the robot is not simply handed instructions and then let loose on your insides.
Myth #2: Robots replace the hands of surgeons, so clearance of cancer may not be as likely.
Fact: The whole point of robotic-assisted surgery is that the robot is able to make precise movements in a way that human hands simply are not capable of. Additionally, the robots are equipped with cameras that offer 3D definition vision that surpasses the abilities of the naked eye. These heightened abilities of the camera allow the surgeon to get a sense of the hardness and texture of organs in the body, which means tactile sensation is neither needed nor missed.
Myth #3: The robot can malfunction during my surgery and put my life at risk.
Fact: The robot goes through a thorough check and maintenance exam prior to every procedure. If anything is suspected to be wrong, the robot will not be used. Additionally, the robot is built with multiple safety features that prevent any malfunction from occurring when it’s in use; the arms will lock in place or gently hover, but cannot be forced in any direction.
Myth #4: Robotic surgery has no clear advantages over any other type of surgery.
Fact: Like other laparoscopic procedures, robotic-assisted surgery offers distinct advantages over open surgery, including:
- A shorter hospital stay and recovery time
- Less blood loss during the procedure
- Less risk of complications during and after surgery
- Lower risk of infection
Coupled with that, a recent small controlled study revealed that compared to flouro-guided surgery, there was a 78 percent decrease in radiation exposure.
Myth #5: Any surgeon can perform robotic-assisted surgery.
Fact: Like any specialized skill, it takes a foundation of training and experience to execute a technique. Remember, it is the surgeon behind the machine who is ultimately performing the surgery. The robot is simply a tool, a means to an end to achieve the best possible outcome.
Robotic-assisted surgery requires a whole different set of proficiencies compared to open surgery or other laparoscopic techniques; many surgeons are still not yet trained to master the nuances of this device. At New Jersey Urology (NJU), we are proud to employ surgeons who have extensive experience in performing procedures using this advanced technology.
Don’t let technophobia get the better of you. If your urologic condition requires surgical intervention, schedule a consultation with the robotic surgery specialists at NJU today to discuss your options.