Robotic technology is the latest advance in minimally invasive surgery. Do not be mislead by the name “robotic”. Unlike a robot in an assembly line, surgical robots are not independent. It is still the surgeon who controls every action of the surgical robot.
During a robotic-assisted procedure the same cannulas as are used in laparoscopic surgery are inserted into the abdomen. Three or four “robotic arms” are connected to the cannulas. Then highly sophisticated instruments are inserted in the abdomen to perform specific tasks. The surgeon sits at a console a few feet away from the patient, and uses joystick controls to direct the movement of the arms.
Unlike conventional laparoscopic tools, robotic instruments are much more precise and can move around a wrist joint, thus resembling more accurately the human hand.
In addition, the view offered by the robotic camera is three dimensional, just like in open surgery, which can greatly aid the surgeon during precision-requiring operations.
Robotic surgery is ideal for procedures that call for great accuracy in relatively small spaces. It is an ideal tool for prostate surgery, cardiac surgery, and, recently, rectal surgery. It is believed that the superior visualization of the tiny pelvic nerves around the rectum may help reduce sexual and bladder problems after rectal cancer surgery.
Although robotic surgery is still quite new, it is growing very rapidly and will conceivably be the most important minimally invasive technique performed throughout the world in the not too distant future.