If your doctor has recommended that you have robotic surgery, you're hardly alone. This high-tech procedure is now being used for surgeries as diverse as hysterectomies, hip replacements and heart surgeries.
But what is it exactly? Or perhaps more pertinently, what is it not, since its name suggests that robots perform the surgery? That's wrong—doctors do. And that is just one important fact to know about robotic surgery. Here are some more.
A behind-the-scenes look
During robotically assisted surgery, the surgeon sits at a computer station and controls the robot's arms, which have tiny surgical instruments attached to them. A thin tube with a camera attached to one of the instruments allows the surgeon to view a magnified 3-D image of the body as the surgery takes place.
The robotic arms match the surgeon's hand motions as the procedure is performed. That means the surgeon is in control.
Tiny cuts, big benefits
Robotic surgery is a type of laparoscopic surgery—a way of operating through small incisions. For both procedures, surgeons use a few small cuts, rather than one longer incision that is used during traditional, or open, surgery.
These minimally invasive approaches allow for:
Less pain and bleeding
Reduced risks of infection
Shorter hospital stays
Robotic arms may allow doctors to operate more nimbly and efficiently than with traditional laparoscopic surgery. The surgeon can also see the surgical site more easily because of the magnified images, potentially improving their precision.
Robotic surgery isn't an option for everyone—or it may not be the best choice, depending on the procedure. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of robotically assisted surgeries.
Sources: Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, U.S. Food and Drug Administration