Melissa Delaney, DO, Obstetrics and Gynecology
The Chester County Hospital and Health System

Published: August 6, 2012

What Is All This Talk About Robots Performing Surgery? How does it work? Is it right for me? These are questions that many of my gynecology patients frequently ask me.

Robotic-assisted surgery, through equipment such as the popular daVinci Surgical System, is an innovative operating procedure that combines a state-of-the-art robotic system with less-invasive surgical technology. It is a break-through surgical technique designed to allow specially-trained surgeons to perform challenging procedures with enhanced capabilities, including high-definition 3D vision and magnified views. With robotic assistance, surgeons can often accomplish the most precise and least invasive surgery for a wide range of complex conditions. The robot doesn't perform the procedure, but allows a surgeon to go beyond his/her anatomical limits (such as hands and vision) to enhance surgical accuracy.

From a gynecologist's perspective, there are a wide variety of non-cancerous conditions that affect a woman's reproductive system: a large uterus that would normally require open abdominal surgery; fibroids (benign tumors that develop in the uterus); endometriosis (when cells from the lining of the uterus grow in other areas of the body) with or without adhesions (bands of scar tissue); heavy bleeding; and other disabling symptoms that can negatively affect the uterus causing chronic pain.

So how do you know if robot-assisted hysterectomy is right for you? From my experience, qualified robotic hysterectomy candidates have the following traits in common:

  • Heavy bleeding that cannot be controlled by other therapies;
  • An enlarged uterus, which could result in a large scar or a greater blood loss and greater pain with traditional open surgery;
  • Endometriosis, obstructing fibroids or dense pelvic adhesions;
  • Large benign ovarian masses.

In addition to gynecological surgeries, the daVinci system is used in other medical specialties, including procedures that address cardiac, urologic, and head and neck problems. Surgeons in these specialties can give insight as to whether or not this surgical approach is the best option for your healthcare needs.

Robotic surgery offers numerous potential benefits over the traditional approaches, including significantly less post-operative pain; less potential blood loss and tissue damage; smaller incisions; decreased length of hospital stay and quicker recovery time.

It is essential to remember though, that even with robotic assistance, it is still a major surgical procedure and important to know your options, understand the risks, and follow your doctor's pre- and post-surgical advice. This will help you as you prepare for the day of surgery and as you work toward a full recovery afterward.

This article was published as part of the Daily Local News Medical Column series which appears every Monday. It has been reprinted by permission of the Daily Local News.

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