The Newest Thing In Surgery

These days, ob-gyns are scrambling to learn the new robotic surgery techniques that are fast replacing traditional surgical methods for performing all kinds of gynecological surgeries including vaginal prolapse repair, myomectomies, hysterectomies, and cancer removals. This is according to experts from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) who spoke at the 57th Annual Clinical meeting. Patients are on the lookout for doctors who can perform these minimally invasive procedures, since robotic surgery leads to shorter recovery times.

Half a decade ago, no one was bandying about the term "robotic surgery," but now it's on everyone's lips: doctors and patients alike. Robotic surgery has become commonplace and physicians are looking into adding the technique to those they already offer in their practices say Javier F. Magrina, MD from Arizona's Mayo Clinic and Arnold P. Advincula, MD, from the University of Michigan. The two experts presented a talk, "Robotic Surgery in Gynecology: Use and Abuse," addressing the pros and cons of the cutting-edge surgical technique.  

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) first approved the use of robotic systems for laparoscopy in 2000 and specified its approval for use of the system in hysterectomies back in 2005. During robotic surgery, the surgeon sits behind a console and directs 3-4 robotic arms that move above the patient according to the commands of the surgeon. Robotic surgery is ideal for such gynecological surgeries as hysterectomy, endometriosis, myomectomy, and the removal of cancerous malignancies from the endometrium and cervix.

The Benefits

Traditional laparoscopic surgery has been difficult for physicians to master because it involves the use of two-dimensional imaging along with the necessity to learn counter-intuitive hand motions. Robotic surgery is the new kid on the block, but easier to learn since it employs three-dimensional imaging and the instruments use wrist-work that mimics that of human surgeons. The differences are that robots never experience hand tremors and the surgeon gets to sit down instead of standing during procedures. This means that there is little chance of a surgeon becoming fatigued.

Robot Drawbacks

If the robot system sounds too good to be true, remember that there is always a downside. In this case, it's cost. A robotic system will set a hospital back by about $1.6 million along with annual maintenance fees that will run in the neighborhood of $100,000, according to Dr. Advincula. Dr. Magrina adds that surgeons will need to undergo training to learn how to operate the system and they'll also require having a proctor on hand during their earliest robotic surgeries. Magrina also advises that physicians practice by doing animal surgeries before beginning to operate on human patients.

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