Robotic surgery is an advanced form of minimally invasive or laparoscopic surgery where surgeons use a computer-controlled robot to assist them in certain surgical procedures. Small incisions on the abdomen are made, through which the surgeon passes a camera and instruments to complete a procedure. This type of surgery involves being placed under general anesthesia, and using carbon dioxide gas to fill the abdomen. Depending on the type of surgery being done, robotic surgery can allow the surgeon to have better visualization, dexterity, and precision.
The surgeon works from a computer console in the operating room, controlling the surgical robot, which has miniaturized instruments mounted on three robotic arms. This requires approximately four to five 8mm incisions on the abdomen. The surgeon looks through a 3D camera attached to another robotic arm, which magnifies the surgical site in great detail and allows for the surgeon to perform precise dissection. As the surgeon moves their hand, the movements are transmitted through the surgical console to the instruments attached to the robot's arms. There is always a surgical team that supervises the robot at the patient's bedside.
Candidates for laparoscopic surgery may also be candidates for robotic surgery, but it is typically reserved for patients who have complex or advanced pathology. The following are examples of types of procedures that can often be safely performed via robotic surgery:
Recovery after robotic surgery is very similar to recovery after laparoscopic surgery. Most patients can safely go home after their robotic procedure. In general, to be safely discharged home from the recovery area, patients need to demonstrate that their pain is well controlled and that they have urinated after surgery. At the UCLA Division of Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery, all patients who are discharged after surgery are given direct phone numbers for any overnight emergencies that may arise.
Patients who undergo minimally invasive surgery have a faster recovery compared to open surgery. We anticipate that patients will be walking by their first night after surgery, and slowly regaining strength for normal functioning with each passing day. Depending on the type of surgery that is performed, most people may return to fully normal activity within two to six weeks.