Robotic Surgery v/s Computer-Assisted Surgery

February 12, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
Hospital doctor shadowing & global health experience programs.

See current opportunities

Many people think of robotic surgery and computer-aided surgery as one and the same thing and often use the names interchangeably. While there both of these techniques do have a few similarities, there are several other very distinct differences that set the two apart.

Shadowing staff in the obstetrics and gynaecology department at Nakornping Hospital Similarities between robotic surgery & computer-assisted surgery

Robotic-assisted surgery and computer-assisted surgery or CAS are both very advanced techniques that are used for higher precision in performing surgeries. Their similarities lie primarily in pre-operative planning where surgeons use computer simulation to run practice sessions of the robotic surgery or the CAS before performing the actual procedure. However, their main difference lies in the intra-operative phase of the procedure where robotic surgeries may use a large degree of computer assistance but computer-assisted surgeries do not use robots.

Differences between robotic surgery & computer-assisted surgery

Computer-assisted surgery, also known as 3-D computer surgery, image-guided surgery or surgical navigation encompasses any type of computer-based procedure that uses advanced technologies such as 3D imaging and real-time sensing in planning, executing and the follow-up stage of surgical procedures. CAS allows for improved visualization, improved diagnostic capabilities and more accurate targeting of sites, giving it a significant advantage over conventional techniques. 

Robotic surgery involves using an advanced surgical robot. The surgeon may or may not play a direct role during the procedure. The robot is basically a computerized system with a motorized construction or arm that is capable of performing certain tasks with the help of small instruments attached to its arm. One key advantage of robotic surgery over computer-assisted is its higher accuracy and more importantly, its ability to repeat identical movements.

Further Robotic Surgery Categories

Robotic surgery can be further divided into 3 subcategories depending on the degree of surgeon interaction during the procedure: 

  1. Supervisory-Controlled: In a supervisory-controlled system, the procedure is executed entirely by the robot, which acts according to the computer program that the surgeon inputs into it prior to the surgery. The surgeon plays a key role in planning the procedure and overseeing the operation, but does not partake directly. This can be an extremely expensive procedure as the robot needs to be custom-programmed to perform each surgery individually, which means gathering several images and data for one patient.
  1. Telesurgical: In the telesurgical system, also known as remote surgery, the surgeon manipulates the robotic arms during the procedure rather than allowing the robotic arms to work solely from a preset program. The surgeon operates from a remote location using real-time image feedback and sensor data that is received from the robot but it is the robot is technically performing the procedure.
  1. Shared-Control: Surgeon involvement is the highest in this system. Here, the surgeon performs the surgery with the assistance of a robot. The robot essentially only offers steady-hand manipulations of the instrument, which results in both entities being able to perform the task with greater efficiency.

Irrespective of which type of robotic surgery is being done, before the procedure is carried out, computer imaging is an essential step for accurate diagnosis and execution.