Robotic Surgery benefits: A blessing for patients and surgeons

January 7, 2024
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What is robotic surgery? 

Robotic surgery is an emerging method that uses very small tools attached to a robotic arm controlled by a human surgeon.

The surgeon sits at a console near the operating table and operates using joysticks and foot pedals. 

While this may sound video gamey, it’s deceivingly complex; the robotic arms precisely translate the surgeon’s hand movements into smaller, minute motions to perform the procedure. 

Robotic arms provide an increased range of motion, allowing surgeons to get into hard-to-reach places that would require nerves of steel and an eagle eye.

Here are some areas where patients are experiencing robotic surgery benefits. 

  • Oncology: Robotic surgery helps in tumor removal with greater precision and minimal damage to surrounding tissue, which leads to better cancer outcomes. 
  • Urology: Procedures like prostatectomies benefit from enhanced dexterity and magnified vision, leading to improved long-term function along with quicker recoveries. 
  • Gynecology: Robotic surgery facilitates hysterectomies and other complex procedures, minimizing pain.

Cardiothoracic surgery: Robotics make life-or-death procedures like heart valve repair easier due to their unparalleled precision, leading to shorter hospital stays and improved outcomes.

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The top 4 robotic surgery benefits

The synergy between skilled humans and robots is creating larger-than-the-sum-of-their-parts results. 

Here are our top 4 robotic surgery benefits: 

Less pain, less scarring = faster recovery times

With tiny incisions, robotic surgery leads to less pain, less scarring, and less blood loss, which leads to a faster recovery. 

Patients are back on their feet faster than ever before. In many cases, they can go home the same day of surgery and return to normal activities within a week or two. 

For example, in prostatectomy cases, robotic surgery reduces average hospitalization from 7 days to 2 days.

(Of course, this doesn’t apply to more serious procedures).

Unmatched precision

Surgeons have a magnified 3D high-def view of the surgical site and more freedom of movement than human hands alone. 

This allows for the kind of meticulous interventions that not even top-level surgical geniuses could perform without assistance. 

Procedures gradually get less invasive

Robotics expands the ability to perform minimally invasive surgeries, even for complex operations. 

This paves the path for more delicate procedures on or around sensitive organs like nerves and blood vessels, minimizing damage and preserving function - and also reducing the risk of infections. 

Better Clinical Outcomes

Robotic surgery demonstrably creates better outcomes for certain complex operations, such as accurate reconstructions and repairs. Unsurprisingly, success and recovery rates are often higher with robotics.

For example, studies show a 20% reduction in post-operative complications after robotic cardiac valve repair compared to traditional surgery.

Also, robotic surgery opens up a way for treating previously inoperable conditions due to their location or complexity, offering hope to patients who may have previously had limited options.

As Dr. Jennifer Lee, Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, said in 2023:

"The precision and control of robotic surgery are truly remarkable. I've seen firsthand how it enables surgeons to perform complex procedures with greater accuracy, minimizing tissue damage and leading to improved long-term outcomes for patients." 

How robotic surgery benefits surgeons across the board

We know that robotic surgery benefits control, precision, accuracy, and general patient outcomes.

But how does this happen? Let’s take a look:

  • Robotic arms can rotate a full 360 degrees - something the human hand cannot do. This lets surgeons navigate tight spaces and have a full range of motion. This extreme flexibility opens up the ability of surgeons to operate in very confined spaces within the body that would otherwise be, frankly, impossible to reach.
  • The robotic tools also eliminate any natural hand tremors or shakes, which allows for precise micro-movements and incisions.
  • The enhanced visualization provides a level of depth perception and detail that is superior to even traditional laparoscopic surgery. Surgeons can see critical anatomical structures more clearly and in true depth. This helps ensure the most accurate diagnosis. treatment, and intervention. 
  • The robot also enables surgeons to suture with more flexibility, precision, and control. These stitches can be very fine, uniform, and meticulous.

Ethics matter

While robotic surgery offers a bright future for healthcare, its current landscape is still presenting some interesting quandaries. 

Most of the concerns revolve around: 

Costs adding up quickly: The technology's high cost creates an access gap. Estimates suggest the average cost of robot-assisted surgery in the US falls between $25,000 and $35,000. Of course, this is even more for complex surgeries. 

Not widely available: The availability of robotic systems is concentrated in certain regions and hospitals, but that is changing rapidly as the benefits become even more impossible to ignore.

Overreliance on technology: The focus on technological precision could potentially lead to an underemphasis on surgeon training and critical decision-making skills.

But, it’s also possible to nip most of these concerns in the bud. Initiatives that lead to cost-reduction strategies, targeted training programs, and ethical development guidelines are already smoothing the transition toward responsible and equitable access to robotic surgery benefits. 

Summing up

Robotic surgery is an incredible innovation that is transforming healthcare for the better and leading us into a world of quasi-sci-fi improvements. 

While, yes, the upfront costs of the technology are substantial, the robotic surgery benefits for patients and surgeons are undeniable. 

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