Robot-assisted surgery is when a doctor guides small robotic arms through tiny incisions. It allows for greater range of motion than regular surgery.
Reasons for Procedure
This method may be used for surgery that:
- Must be precise
- Does not need open access, such as with laparoscopic procedures
The benefits of this type of surgery are:
- Less blood loss
- Lower risk of infection
- Less scarring
- Less trauma to the body
- Faster recovery
- Less time in the hospital
Many adult and child surgeries can be done using this method. Some examples are:
- Adrenalectomy —removal of the adrenal gland
- Cholecystectomy —removal of the gallbladder
- Bariatric —reduces the size of the stomach to treat obesity
- Heller myotomy—procedure on the lower esophageal sphincter
- Nissen fundoplication —treatment for severe heartburn
- Pyloroplasty—widens the opening in the lower part of the stomach
- Colectomy —removal of the colon
- Appendectomy —removal of the appendix
- Hernia repair—corrects a bulging of internal organs or tissues
- Esophagectomy —removal of the esophagus
- Thymectomy —removal of the thymus gland
- Mediastinal tumor resection —removal of tumors in the chest cavity
- Lobectomy —removal of a lung
Problems from robotic-assisted surgeries are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
- Excess bleeding
- Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
- Damage to nearby organs or structures
- The need to switch to traditional surgery types, such as traditional laparoscopic or open surgery
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
- Anesthesia options
- Any allergies you may have
- Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that you take and whether you need to stop taking them before surgery
- Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
- Arranging for a ride to and from surgery
- Tests that will need to be done before surgery, such as imaging tests
You may be given:
- Local anesthesia—the area will be numbed
- General anesthesia —you will be asleep
Description of the Procedure
Keyhole incisions are placed in preparation for a robot-assisted surgical procedure.
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Several small incisions will be made at the surgery site. A needle may be used to inject gas into the area. This will make it easier to see inside the body. A scope with a small camera on the end will be passed through one of the incisions. The camera will display the area on a video screen. Next, robotic arms holding tools will be inserted through the holes.
While sitting nearby, the doctor will use lenses to look at a magnified 3-D image of the inside of the body. Another doctor will adjust the camera and tools. The robotic arms and tools will be guided by the surgeon. When the surgery is done, the tools will be removed. Stitches or staples will be used to close the incisions. Bandages will be used to cover them.
How Long Will It Take?
About 1 to 2 hours. It depends on the type of surgery.
Will It Hurt?
It depends on the surgery, but pain and swelling are common in the first 2 weeks. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay is a few days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Care Center
Right after the procedure, the staff may give you medicine to treat pain.
During your stay, staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:
- Washing their hands
- Wearing gloves or masks
- Keeping your incisions covered
You can also lower your chance of infection by:
- Washing your hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
- Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
- Not letting others touch your incisions
Activities will need to be limited during recovery. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay your return to work.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
- Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from an incision
- Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe nausea or vomiting
- Problems urinating
- Pain and swelling in the feet or legs
- Constipation or diarrhea
- New or unexpected symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American College of Surgeons
US Food & Drug Administration
Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health
Robot-assisted heart surgery. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/17438-robotically-assisted-heart-surgery. Accessed August 14, 2020.
Robotic surgery. The Robotic Surgery Center at NYU Langone Medical Center website. Available at: http://robotic-surgery.med.nyu.edu/for-patients/what-robotic-surgery. Accessed August 14, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD Last Updated: 8/17/2020