If you're facing any type of surgery and your doctor has recommended robotic surgery for the procedure, you may have some questions about what this includes and what the term "robotic" actually means. You might also wonder why your doctor would recommend this over other standard surgical procedures. Note a few commonly asked questions about robotic surgery and then be sure to discuss these with your doctor if you still have concerns about his or her recommendation for you.
1. Is the surgery actually performed by the robot itself?
This is a common questions because people hear the word robot and assume this means something that works on its own, like a robot on a factory or production line. This is incorrect; the robotic arm is controlled by the surgeon himself or herself and cannot move on its own. The surgeon may see the incision or area of surgery through a special type of camera that is attached to the robotic arm, and may be controlling it from a nearby station that is attached to the arm. You might find a better comparison in a crane operator who maneuvers a crane arm from the cab of the crane; that crane arm doesn't work on its own, and neither does the robotic arm used in a surgery.
2. How can a surgeon see when they're not doing the cutting and incisions themselves?
Typically a surgeon can see better when they use robotic surgery because of the cameras that are placed on the robotic arm. These tiny cameras typically offer them the ability to see under and around the area of incision, and offers three-dimensional imaging, not just a flat photo or scan. This can allow a surgeon to see more of a tumor that needs removing or more of muscles and other parts that need incisions and stitches.
3. How can robotic surgery mean less scarring and minimal blood loss?
Often, a surgeon will tell a patient that robotic surgery will mean less blood loss during surgery and less scarring overall. This is because the robotic arm offers the surgeon more precise cutting abilities than they could manage on their own with a standard scalpel. The robotic arm has more dexterity than a surgeon's hand, and the cutting edge of the robotic arm is much smaller than a scalpel itself. This allows it to reach the area of surgery without such a wide cut or incision needed, so you have much less blood loss overall and the surgery or incision scar will also be smaller.
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