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Vital Signs

Winter 2010

Robotic Technology Applied to More Types of Surgery


VS Winter 2010-Robotic SurgeryRobotic surgery is being used increasingly often and for a growing number of procedures at leading centers such as UCLA, which recently acquired its second state-of-the-art robotic system.

“Not long ago, robotic surgery was only for laparoscopic prostatectomy,” says Erik Dutson, M.D., co-director of UCLA’s Center for Advanced Surgical and Interventional Technology (CASIT), which has been involved in developing new robotic surgical approaches as well as training surgeons in the techniques. “Now it is being used on a routine basis for a wide variety of surgical areas. This is a technology that is here to stay.”

Robotic surgery is a minimally invasive technique similar to laparoscopy — a tiny camera is placed through a needle-sized hole in the patient’s body to obtain clear pictures, and probes are used to carry out the operation. The difference is that instead of directly grasping the probes, the surgeon sits at a console with a three-dimensional view inside the patient and manipulates robotic arms that hold the probes. The robotic arms act like human wrists, giving the surgeon greater flexibility as he or she manipulates the tiny surgical tools inside the body. A system filters hand tremor and amplifies the video image in 3-D to facilitate more precise movements.

“Every year, it seems, new procedures are being added to the list of indications” for robotic surgery, says Peter Schulam, M.D., Ph.D., CASIT co-director. He explains that the robot is particularly useful for operations that require the surgeon to work in a small space within the body, or when he or she must perform suturing that requires fine motor control.

VS Winter 2010 Issue: Robotic SurgeryUCLA’s newest surgical robot, the da Vinci S, gives surgeons an unprecedented visualization system with high-definition images and improved range of motion, and an interface that enables them to expand the complexity of their procedures. Already, robotic surgery is being used routinely at UCLA for a wide variety of surgical areas — urology, cardiothoracic, noncardiac thoracic, gynecology and general surgery among them.

In all of the current surgeries in which robotic technology is employed, as well as the additional ones that are bound to be added to the list in the coming years, the robot serves as an enabling device, Dr. Dutson explains. “It is allowing us to push the boundaries of what we can do,” he says. “It’s making difficult procedures a lot easier, which is allowing more surgeons to adopt the minimally invasive approach — an approach that ultimately benefits the patient.”

The da Vinci S robotic surgery images 2009 © Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

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