Robot-Assisted Thoracic Procedures
Thoracic surgery is done on the chest, but it does not involve surgery on the heart. With robot-assisted thoracic procedures, the doctor guides small robotic arms through keyhole incisions.
Reasons for Procedure
Robot-assisted thoracic procedures are considered for surgeries that:
Some thoracic surgeries that have been successfully performed using robotic techniques include:
Compared to more traditional procedures, robotic-assisted surgery may result in:
Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a robot-assisted thoracic procedure, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Depending on the reason for your surgery, your doctor may do the following:
Leading up to the procedure:
General anesthesia will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.
Description of the Procedure
You will be connected to a ventilator. This is a machine that moves air in and out of your lungs. Next, the doctor will cut several keyhole openings in the chest wall between the ribs. One or more chest tubes may be placed into the side of the chest. These tubes will be used to drain fluid and monitor air leakage. A needle may be used to inject carbon dioxide gas into the chest cavity. The gas will make it easier for the doctor to see internal structures.
The doctor will then pass a small camera, called an endoscope, through one of the incisions. The camera will light, magnify, and project the structures onto a video screen. The camera will be attached to one of the robotic arms. The other arms will hold instruments for grasping, cutting, dissecting, and suturing. These may include:
While sitting at a console near the operating table, the doctor will look through lenses at magnified 3D images of the inside of the body. Another doctor will stay by the table to adjust the camera and tools. With joystick-like controls and foot pedals, the doctor will guide the robotic arms and tools to remove organs and tissue. After the tools are removed, the doctor will use sutures or staples to close the surgical area.
Immediately After Procedure
If you are doing well, the breathing tube will be removed. Later, the chest tubes will be removed.
How Long Will It Take?
About 1-4 hours (depending on the procedure)
How Much Will It Hurt?
You will have pain during recovery. Your doctor will give you pain medicine. You may also feel discomfort from the gas used during the procedure. This can last up to three days.
Average Hospital Stay
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is a few days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if you have any problems.
At the Hospital
While you are recovering at the hospital, you may receive the following care:
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:
Depending on the procedure, you should recover within a few weeks.
Call Your Doctor
After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:
In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American College of Surgeons
Society of Thoracic doctors
Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health
Canadian Lung Association
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Last reviewed December 2011 by Rosalyn Carson-DeWitt, MD