In robotic surgery, or robot-assisted surgery, surgeons conduct procedures through small incisions (minimally invasive surgery) using a robotic system. Robotic surgery allows surgeons to perform many complex procedures with more precision, flexibility and control than standard surgical techniques. Some people who aren't candidates for open or minimally invasive surgery may be candidates for robotic surgery.

About

Several types of robotic surgery may be used to treat many conditions. Some people may not be candidates for robotic surgery. Your doctor will discuss with you whether you're a candidate for the procedure.

In robotic surgery, a type of minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopic surgery), surgeons make a few short incisions instead of the single long incision made in open surgery. Surgeons conduct robotic surgery using a robotic system, which includes a camera arm and several interactive mechanical arms, with joints that work like a human's wrist.

Your surgeon guides the procedure from a remote console a few feet from the surgical table. Your surgeon views the surgical area in a 3-D magnified view on a monitor, which offers greater depth perception and detailed views than does open surgery.

From the remote console, your surgeon uses two hand-and-finger devices to precisely direct the mechanical arms at the operating table. Your surgeon leads a trained surgical team during the surgery.

Surgeons have more flexibility, control and maneuverability using the surgical instruments in robotic surgery than in traditional minimally invasive surgery. Using robotic surgery, surgeons can perform delicate and complex procedures that may have been difficult or impossible with other techniques.

In robotic surgery, you often may have less blood loss and reduced trauma, a shorter hospital stay and a quicker recovery compared with open surgery. You may return to normal activities more quickly than after open surgery. Robotic surgery may involve some risks, similar to open surgery, including risk of infection and other complications.

Types

Surgeons at Mayo Clinic perform many types of robotic surgery to treat several complex conditions. In robotic surgery, surgeons use the da Vinci Surgical System, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2000 to treat some conditions. Since then, many types of robotic surgery have been approved to treat a variety of conditions. Not all robotic surgeries may be available at each Mayo Clinic location.

Mayo Clinic surgeons perform a wide range of robotic surgeries, including:

Robotic abdominal surgery and colon and rectal surgery

Mayo Clinic surgeons use robotic surgery to treat many types of abdominal conditions and colon and rectal conditions, including:

Because robotic arms are more flexible than standard laparoscopic tools and allow greater precision and better access to difficult areas, Mayo Clinic surgeons often may spare delicate nerves and prevent damage to nerves and tissues.

Robotic cardiovascular surgery

Mayo Clinic cardiovascular surgeons perform many minimally invasive heart surgeries, including heart valve surgeries, coronary bypass surgery and others, using the robotic system.

Mayo Clinic surgeons treat many heart conditions using robotic surgery, including:

In robotic heart surgery, cardiovascular surgeons perform heart surgery through small incisions in the right side of your chest, as an alternative to open-heart surgery. Surgeons operate between your ribs and don't split your breastbone (sternotomy), which results in less pain, smaller scars and a quicker recovery for most people. You may be able to return to your normal activities sooner. In robotic surgery, you'll often have a lower risk of complications and less blood loss compared with open surgery.

Robotic gynecologic surgery

Mayo Clinic doctors use the robotic system to conduct many gynecologic procedures, including robotic hysterectomy, robotic myomectomy and others.

Surgeons may use robotic surgery to treat many gynecologic conditions, including:

Because the robotic arms are more flexible than standard laparoscopic tools, surgeons operate and suture with greater accuracy. After robotic surgery, many women experience less postoperative pain, reduced scarring, fewer complications and a faster return to normal activities when compared with other surgical approaches. Depending on your age and the procedure, robotic surgery also may help preserve your fertility and improve your reproductive health.

Robotic head and neck surgery

Mayo Clinic head and neck surgeons have extensive experience performing transoral robotic surgery to treat many conditions, including:

Using the robotic instruments, surgeons can operate in hard-to-reach areas of your mouth and throat with precision and flexibility. Surgeons also can visualize the surgical area far better in transoral robotic surgery than conventional surgery.

People who have transoral robotic surgery often have less pain, fewer complications, shorter hospital stays and a quicker recovery time when compared with conventional head and neck procedures.

Surgeons also may treat thyroid cancer with robotic thyroid surgery.

Robotic urologic surgery

Mayo Clinic urologic surgeons perform robotic surgery to treat many conditions, including:

Mayo Clinic urologic surgeons perform robotic prostatectomy to treat prostate cancer, robotic partial nephrectomy to remove part of the kidney and many other surgeries. People who have robotic urologic surgery often have less trauma, reduced blood loss, reduced risk of complications, shorter hospital stays and a quicker recovery compared with traditional open surgery.

Robotic arm system for partial knee replacement surgery

Doctors at Mayo Clinic in Florida recently have used a robotic arm system to conduct partial knee replacement surgery in people who have limited osteoarthritis.

Nov. 23, 2011