Robotics and Gynecologic Surgery: Science Fact, Not Fiction
It may sound like science fiction, but robots are becoming a reality in the operating room. One example? Gynecologic surgery. For women undergoing these procedures, robotics mean surgery with less pain, blood loss and time in the hospital.
Until recently, procedures such as hysterectomy and fibroid removal could be performed by open abdominal surgery or laparoscopic surgery, a technique that uses a camera and tools inserted into the body through small incisions. Now, robotic surgery improves upon laparoscopic techniques.
"Robotic-assisted surgery can be useful during hysterectomies and procedures to treat endometriosis, reverse tubal ligation, correct vaginal prolapse and remove fibroids while preserving the uterus," said Gerald Burke, M.D., Chief of the Section of Reproductive Endocrinology at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center.
Improved Vision, Flexibility
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the da Vinci Surgical System for gynecologic procedures in 2005. The robot does not replace the surgeon, but enhances his ability to perform intricate procedures. The surgeon sits near the patient and looks into a viewfinder at a crisp, three-dimensional image. The surgeon's fingers manipulate master controls, while the system translates the surgeon's hand, wrist and finger movements to the da Vinci's "arms" and the instruments inside the patient.
Howard Saul, D.O., a gynecologic oncologist on staff at Our Lady of Lourdes Medical Center, said the da Vinci's 3-D vision and enhanced flexibility provide easier access to hard-to-reach areas.
"The degree of freedom of movement and visualization allows us to do more procedures through smaller and smaller incisions," Dr. Saul said. "The ability to suture is superior."
In addition, these advancements make many roboticassisted surgeries faster than traditional techniques.
Physicians who use robotics must undergo special training and perform a prescribed number of cases to be certified as proficient. "Although the equipment is helpful in many ways, you still need highly skilled surgeons for the procedures to be successful," Dr. Burke said.
Drs. Saul and Burke predict the number and types of procedures performed using robots will increase in the future. If you need a hysterectomy or fibroid removal, they recommend finding out whether roboticassisted surgery is an option.