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Should You Let a Robot Do Your Surgery?

Think of the word “robot” and you probably think of Hollywood staples such as R2-D2, C-3PO, the Iron Giant, or Wall-E. In other words, you think of lifelike — but fictional — creatures with varying levels of free will.

In the world of health care, however, robots are very real — but they aren’t operating on their own. In fact, they’re becoming increasingly common as a safer, less-painful tool for performing minimally invasive surgeries.

Minimally invasive surgery usually involves the use of a laparoscope — an instrument that allows surgeons to look inside the abdomen and perform procedures without creating a large incision.

Today, in addition to laparoscopes, robotic surgery allows surgeons to use a computer to control a robotic arm with very small instruments attached to it.

Here’s what you should know about robotic surgery, how it’s improved over the years, and how it can help with your recovery.

Robotic Surgery, Explained

Robotic surgery is similar to laparoscopic surgery because it only requires a small incision. The robot’s arm goes in the incision, and it allows the surgeon to make smaller, more-precise movements, see the area where the surgery is being performed more clearly, and move more comfortably.

Robotic surgery is a safe and effective way to perform surgeries that would have traditionally required open surgery. It allows surgeons movement to do things that they couldn’t otherwise do. With a camera attached to the end of a robotic arm, the surgeon can see and work in places they couldn’t get to before.

It’s important to remember that the robot can’t do anything without the surgeon controlling it. The moment the surgeon orders the robot to stop, it does exactly that.

How Robotic Surgery Has Evolved

Robotic surgery has come a long way since it first started in the 1980s — and the technology is always improving. Today, it’s more user-friendly, easier to set up, and allows surgeons to work all over the abdomen and pelvis without having to move the robot, leading to less time in the operating room.

The cameras are also much better. The robot is the only way to look at the body in 3 dimensions. This visualization makes it safer to work in areas that were previously considered dangerous.

The tools are also improved. For example, there’s now a surgical stapler that tells the surgeon that there’s too much tissue in between the top and bottom parts of the stapler’s jaw. This lets the surgeon know that the closure won’t be safe, and they can adjust accordingly.

Stormont Vail has the most advanced software in the area, including the most recent version of the da Vinci robotic surgery system. This latest and greatest software gives surgeons more control to allow surgeries to be more efficient.

Which Surgeries Are Being Done With Robotic Surgery

At Stormont Vail Health, robotic surgery is used for urology, cardiothoracic, and gynecological surgeries. The robot makes the surgery much easier for the surgeon, making it better for the patient as a result.

What Robotic Surgery Means for Your Recovery

With the robot, there can be less pain, and you return to your daily life quicker. For instance, after a hernia repair, some people are able to return to work within a couple of weeks, compared to 6 to 8 weeks with traditional surgery.

In fact, many hernias are actually caused by damage from previous surgeries. Robotic surgery helps minimize this risk — meaning you may not develop a hernia in the first place.

Most importantly, robotic surgery makes recovery a lot quicker. Open surgery is harder on patients’ bodies. Keeping the abdomen and chest closed makes a big difference for the patient experience.

Got questions about robotic surgery? Call (785) 354-9591 to speak with a member of the Stormont Vail Health general surgery team.

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