February 12, 2014
Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.
In robotic surgery, the incisions that need to be made are much smaller than the openings required in traditional surgery. For example in non-robotic open-heart surgery, the surgeon has to first make a 10 to 12 inch incision, split the breast bone and then spread open the rib cage in order to gain access to the heart. The heart is then stopped for the duration of the surgery while a heart-lung machine takes its place. All of these various procedures combined contribute to prolonged postoperative pain with a higher risk of infection and a much-longer recovery time.
Compare this with robotic cardiac surgery where the smaller incisions mean less blood loss, quicker patient recovery and shorter hospital stay. On average, patients who undergo robotic cardiac surgery go home at least 2 to 5 days earlier than those who undergo conventional open-heart surgery. Quicker recovery times also means lower number of staff required during and after surgery, thereby reducing the overall cost of the procedure and hospital stay.
Robotic surgery also gives surgeons a better view of the surgical site, easier access to hard to reach places and tighter control over smaller and more precise surgical instruments such as the ones attached to the robot arm. The robot’s computer software filters out naturally occurring human tremors that increase the risk factor in very intricate surgeries.
Because surgeons perform robotic-assisted surgery while sitting down, they do not tire as quickly as they would doing traditional surgery. This means they can work longer hours tirelessly, lowering the risk factor caused by fatigue.
In addition to the above, a surgical robot can be used to conduct one surgery after another continuously by rotating surgical teams without worrying about fatigue or any other human restrictions.
The only cons associated with robotic surgery are that of higher costs. The robot itself is expectedly very expensive with the cost of disposable supplies sending the cost of the procedure even higher. Many hospitals are doing feasibility studies to determine whether the huge expense is worthwhile. Several studies later, opinion is still divided.
Although all manufacturers provide sufficient training on using this new technology, the learning phase is still quite intensive. Critics of the system say that the learning curve for surgeons who adopt use of the system is too long and not justified especially considering the lack of studies that indicate better long-term results.