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A Robotic Approach to Gynecologic Surgery

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Minimally invasive surgery offers a number of benefits to patients, compared with traditional open surgery. Through the minimally invasive approach, patients are able to recover from their surgery much sooner. Because most patients go home the next day after their surgery, the requirements for pain medication are less and the return of bowel function is quicker, as is the return to normal daily activities.

Robotic surgery is the most advanced technology in gynecologic cancer surgery and it's the newest approach in minimally invasive surgery. Just like laparoscopic surgery in which the procedure is performed through very small incisions in the abdomen, robotic surgery accomplishes the same goals but offers patients even more outstanding benefits. These include less blood loss and lower risks of intraoperative or postoperative complications.

Often, patients will ask, what is the difference between laparoscopy and robotic surgery if they're both considered minimally invasive surgery? The answer is simple and there are several reasons:

  • With the robotic system, the surgeon has a three-dimensional view of the surgical field; in laparoscopy, the visualization is two-dimensional

  • Instruments in robotic surgery have seven degrees of motion, similar to a human wrist; those used in laparoscopy are rigid and offer only three degrees of motion

  • In robotic surgery, the surgeon is sitting down in a comfortable position during the entire procedure; in laparoscopy, the procedure is performed with the surgeon standing, leading to a greater possibility of fatigue

Although many patients are concerned whether the robot or the surgeon is doing the surgery, it should be clear that the robot only reproduces the surgeon's hand movements -- so, it's all done by the surgeon.

Another frequently asked question is about any drawbacks to robotic surgery. Although the benefits are clear, the major drawback to the patient is that the equivalent surgery usually takes longer using the robotic approach than by the open approach.

Most patients undergoing surgery for uterine cancer and early cervical cancer are candidates for robotic surgery. Even patients with early ovarian cancer may qualify for this type of surgery.

All women diagnosed with gynecologic malignancies should ask their doctor if they're candidates for robotic surgery.

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