Although we don’t yet live in a world where droids do our dry cleaning or work the drive-through window at Wendy’s, surgeons are using robotic technology to improve the precision of surgical procedures.
Robotic surgery technology was originally intended to facilitate remotely performed surgery in the battlefield, but has turned out to be extremely useful for performing onsite, minimally invasive procedures. Robotic Surgery is proving to overcome the limitations of traditional, minimally invasive surgery by enhancing the capabilities of surgeons performing the surgery. The da Vinci Surgical System, a patented technology owned by Intuitive Surgical, features three surgical components:
- A surgeon’s console
- A patient-side robotic cart with 4 robotic arms (one to control the camera and three to manipulate instruments)
- A high-definition 3D vision system.
Very small and precise surgical instruments are mounted on the ends of each robotic arm, which are manipulated by the surgeon from the console. Instruments are introduced into the body through ports that require an incision about the size of a dime.
The robotic technology senses the surgeon’s hand movements, then translates the movements electronically into scaled-down micro-movements to control the tiny surgical instruments. Many of the instruments include mechanical “wrists” and “elbows” that are capable of movement well beyond the capability of hand and finger joints. Most impressive is the robot’s ability to detect and filter out any tremor in the surgeon’s human movements, making sure that these human limitations are not duplicated robotically.
Aside from procedural precision, a major benefit of robotic procedures is the reduction in surgical trauma to the body and surrounding structures and tissues. Many procedures that are traditionally performed in an “open” surgical environment with large incisions can now be performed through small incisions that allow body cavities to remain closed. This makes the patient much less susceptible to infection, and recovery from surgery is reduced to a fraction of traditional recovery.
This video interview with Dr. Brian Gill gives further insight into the advantages of robotic surgery, and ways that the da Vinci Surgical System is being used to perform surgical procedures at Timpanogos Regional Medical Center.