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How is Robotic Surgery compared to Laparoscopic or Conventional Open Surgery?

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

Robotic Surgery has revolutionized the way we perform surgery nowadays. Major advances in technology in the field of surgical robots have happened in recent years and this has led to major changes in how surgery is being performed and how patients recover.

Robotic Surgery allows surgeons to perform complex procedures with more control, precision and flexibility than ever before.

Robotic surgery does not mean that the robot is performing the surgery. A surgical Robot helps to enhance the skill of a surgeon. A surgeon controls the robotic arms which in turn move the instruments to which it is attached. This is guided via a console. Four arms operate together, one with a camera, two acting as the surgeon’s hands and one to assist. The surgeon controls the procedure via a control system, using his hands and feet. This controls the robotic arms, which are attached to very precise instruments, allowing the automated surgery to operate through much smaller incisions. The camera provides a highly magnified image on a high-definition monitor, with more detailed, 3D images than the naked eye could provide.

The latest Da Vinci Surgical system which is used at Mount Elizabeth Novena and Mount Elizabeth Orchard Hospital in Singapore helps the surgeon to perform the most intricate and complex operations in minimally invasive ways. This is especially useful in complex surgeries such as gastric or stomach cancer surgery (gastrectomy), esophageal cancer surgery (esophagectomy) as well as pancreatic cancer surgery (pancreatectomy) and when operations are less invasive, they have fewer complications associated with them.

Key benefits of robotic surgery:

1. Minimally invasive surgery

Robotic surgery involves the use of very small instruments, rather than a surgeon’s hands, to go inside the body. This means that incisions only need to be very small, sub-centimetre in most cases, and often referred to as ‘keyhole’. The use of a camera on one of the robotic arms allows the surgical robot to carefully navigate delicate blood vessels, reducing the risk of bleeding. In difficult to access areas of the body, large incisions are traditionally needed so that the surgeon can assess the area, but robotic surgery allows to a surgeon to navigate around obstacles clearly. The robotic arms are wristed and therefore the surgeon is able to perform more complex manoeuvres as compared to the straight instruments in laparoscopic surgery. The high-definition camera is steady as it is controlled by the surgeon and is less dependent on the assistant as compared to laparoscopic surgery. The high magnification of the camera and delicate handling of the tissues leads to less blood loss in complex surgeries.

2. Faster post-surgery recovery

Minimally invasive surgery results in faster post-operative recovery as this surgery results in less stress to the patient’s body. Large incisions take longer to recover as the body takes time to heal. Whilst every surgery, and everyone’s recovery time is different, patients who have had minimally invasive surgery can usually return home after just a few days, and shorter hospital stays are often associated with a speedier recovery. Smaller incisions also mean less trauma to the body and much smaller scars that heal quickly.

3. Less pain

Small incisions result in less pain and discomfort associated with surgery. As robotic surgery is also more precise, you are less likely to experience internal pain. This may result in reduced amounts of pain medication that need to be taken.

4. Reduced infection risk

Infection is one of the biggest concerns for patients who have undergone surgery. Risk of infection is higher when the wound is larger and when tissues have been handled in a rough manner. Infection results in a much longer stay in hospital with the need for prolonged antibiotics and secondary procedures such as drainage etc. When a surgical wound is infected, there is a higher chance of future risk of incisional hernia. It has also shown that this may increase the recurrence rate for cancers. As robotic surgery is minimally invasive, the risk of infection and all the associated complications are reduced.

5. Better clinical outcomes

Robotic surgery can help reduce error during highly complex procedures, compared to traditional surgery. By providing the surgical team with better precision and a detailed view of the surgical area, the chance of damaging tissue is reduced and the surgery is more likely to be a success.

Robotic surgery can be used for many surgical procedures, which would traditionally be major operations. This includes cancer surgery for stomach, esophagus, pancreas, liver, colorectal, bariatric (weight loss), complex hernias, gynaecological, and urological surgeries. While some patients may be a little apprehensive about the thought of a robot operating on them, remember that the surgeon is in control the entire time, with their movements translated to the more controlled movements of the robotic instruments. If you have surgery planned, talk to your doctor to see if robotic surgery could benefit you.

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