Robotic surgery or robot-assisted surgery uses small tools attached to a robotic arm to perform a surgery. The surgeon controls this robotic arm sitting at a computer console which is near the operating table. The console provides the surgeon with a high-definition, magnified, and 3D view of the body’s intricate anatomy. The surgeon can thus operate with more precision and handle the most complex surgical procedures with a better control. To perform this surgery, the surgeon makes minor incisions in the patient’s body to insert the instrument. A thin tube with a camera is attached to the end which enables the surgeon to view magnified images of the surgical site. Robotic surgery has been widely adopted by hospitals in the United States and other countries to treat a wide range of conditions.
History of Robotic Surgery
The first use of a robotic surgery dates back to as old as the year 1985 when a PUMA 560 robotic surgical arm was used in a neurosurgical biopsy. The surgery was successful and was followed by the first laparoscopic procedure, a cholecystectomy, in the year 1987. Another robotic surgery was carried out in the following year to perform a transurethral resection. In the year 1990, Computer Motion came out with AESOP system that became the first system to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration for performing endoscopic procedures. In the year 2000, FDA approved Da Vinci Surgery system for general laparoscopic surgery. This surgery system has become worldwide today and is being used by surgeons all over to assist them in various surgeries.
Advantages of Robotic Surgery
Robotic surgery offers many benefits to the patients undergoing the surgery. They are:
- Shorter hospitalization
- Lesser pain and discomfort
- Quicker recovery time
- Smaller incisions, resulting in lesser risks of infections
- Reduced blood loss and transfusions
- Lesser scars
Apart from the patient, robotic surgery provides the surgeon with greater visualization, enhanced dexterity, and greater precision to perform the surgery. The surgeon can make small incisions in the patient’s body and place the robotic arm on the surgical site. This makes it easier for the surgeon to use the surgical tools in a more comfortable way and in a less restrictive manner. Robotic surgery is not as fatiguing as an open surgery where continuous long hours of holding a scalpel could tire out a surgeon. Robotic surgery places a lesser strain on the surgeon thereby keeping their concentration intact.
Disadvantages of Robotic Surgery
Similar to an open surgery, a robotic surgery too has its disadvantages. Some of them are:
- Reactions to medicines
- Breathing issues
Some other disadvantages that are not directly related to the patients include:
- Steeper Learning Curve: Surgeons have observed that mastering the Da Vinci System takes a lot of time. The surgeons have to practice hundreds of surgeries before they can perform an actual one using the robotic surgical arm after gaining a complete expertise in its operation. In this time, they could have learned the surgical skills using manual operation. This is where robotic surgeries lack.
- Exorbitant Cost: The first robotic surgery was as expensive as $1 million and even though over the years this cost has dropped down considerably, it still remains high when compared with other conventional surgeries. The robots have a fixed cost of $1.4 million and in addition to that, they also have annual maintenance costs that are very high.
- Latency: At present, the time delay between the instructions of the surgeon and the movement of the robotic surgical arm in response to these instructions is restricting the development of robotic surgery. This is why the surgeons have to be in close proximity of the patients on the operating table. However, there are continued advancements happening in the field of robotic surgery and it is highly possible that at some time this disadvantage could be easily eliminated. With continued advancements in this field, surgical prep work could be carried out remotely. The patient could be in a nearby “clean room” thereby reducing the chances of any intraoperative infections. Currently, another assistant surgeon sits with the patient to ensure the surgery is being carried out accurately. In the future, robotic surgery may become more reliable eliminating the need for extra staff to participate in a surgery.
Future of Robotic Surgery
The future of robotic surgery is very promising. It is already doing such amazing things in the medical field and its future is wide open with lots of potentials. Robotic surgery is currently being used in neurological, urological, gynaecological, and many other surgical procedures. Complicated surgeries need long hours of careful planning. With such modern technologies like 3D printing or various other simulation techniques, the medical field is being transformed and heading towards a better and more secure future where there is close cooperation between humans and medical technology.