A doctor uses robotic arms to operate through small keyhole incisions in the abdomen.
The robotic arms are able to do surgical tasks with an increased range of motion. They also can filter out hand tremor. The special tools translate the doctor’s larger hand movements into smaller ones. This allows delicate work to occur in small spaces.
Close-up view of laparoscopic tools used to remove the gallbladder (green structure).
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surgeries that have been successful using robotic techniques include:
Adrenalectomy—removal of adrenal gland
Appendectomy—removal of the appendix
Bariatric surgery—surgery of the stomach to treat
obesityCholecystectomy—removal of the gallbladder
Colorectal proceduresHernia repairNephrectomy—removal of a kidney
fundoplication—surgical reinforcement of the valve between the esophagus and stomach
Prostatectomy—removal of the prostate
Hysterectomy—removal of the uterus
Myomectomy—removal of fibroids, which are noncancerous tumors in the walls of the uterus
Compared to more traditional procedures, robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery may result in: Less scarringReduced recovery timesLess risk of infectionLess blood loss
to the body
Shorter hospital stayFaster recovery
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like: Damage to neighboring organs or structuresInfectionBleedingAnesthesia-related problems
The need to switch to traditional surgical methods such as
or open surgery
Factors that may increase the risk of complications include: SmokingPre-existing heart or lung conditionObesityDiabetesExcessive alcohol intakePrevious abdominal or pelvic surgeryUse of certain medications
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
Depending on the reason for your surgery, your doctor may do the following: Physical examBlood testsUrine testsElectrocardiogram (EKG)
(IVP)X-ray of kidneys, ureter, bladder (KUB)
Abdominal or pelvic
Leading up to the procedure:
Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.
Take antibiotics if instructed.Take a laxative and/or use an enema to clean out your intestines if instructed.Follow a special diet if instructed.Shower the night before using antibacterial soap if instructed.Arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital. Also, have someone to help you at home.Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
Depending on the type of procedure that you have, you may be given: General anesthesia—blocks pain and keeps you asleep through the surgery
Local anesthesia—just the area that is being operated on is numbed; given as an injection and may also be given with a sedative
Several small incisions will be made. They are called keyhole incisions. Carbon dioxide gas will be passed into the abdomen to expand it. This will make it easier for the doctor to view the area.
A small camera will be passed through one of the incisions. This tool is called an endoscope. It lights, magnifies, and projects an image of the organs onto a video screen. The endoscope will be attached to one of the robotic arms. The other arms will hold tools that are able to grasp, cut, dissect, and suture. These may include: ForcepsScissorsDissectorsScalpels
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The doctor will sit at a console, looking at the images on the screen. Joystick-like hand controls and foot pedals will help to guide the tools. Another doctor will stay by you to adjust the tools as needed. In some cases, organs or tissue might need to be removed. When the procedure is done, the tools will be removed. The incisions will be closed with sutures or staples and a sterile dressing will be applied.
About 1-2 hours, depending on the type of procedure
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications. You may also feel discomfort from the gas used during the procedure. This can last up to 3 days.
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 1-2 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if you have any problems.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery: Wash the incisions with mild soap and water.Limit certain activities, such as driving and strenuous activity.Participate in any physical therapy or rehabilitation.
Depending on the procedure, you should make a full recovery within a few weeks.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor: Signs of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from an incision siteAbdominal swelling or painSevere nausea or vomiting
Blood in the stoolPain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legsCough, shortness of breath, chest painBeing unable to eat or drink liquidsHeadache, feeling faint or lightheadedExcessive vaginal bleeding after a gynecologic procedurePersistent or foul smelling vaginal discharge after a gynecologic procedureNew or worsening symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
The da Vinci surgical system. University of Southern California, Cardiothoracic Surgery website. Available at:
http://www.cts.usc.edu/rsi-davincisystem.html. Accessed July 25, 2013.
Robotic surgery. Brown University website. Available at:
http://biomed.brown.edu/Courses/BI108/BI108_2005_Groups/04/. Accessed July 25, 2013.
Robotic surgery. Thinkquest website. Available at:
http://library.thinkquest.org/03oct/00760/. Accessed July 25, 2013.
Ruurda JP, van Vroonhoven ThJMV, Broeders IAMJ. Robot-assisted surgical systems: a new era in laparoscopic surgery.
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Last reviewed May 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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