Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery
Robotic surgery FAQs
If your doctor has recommended you have surgery, it’s natural to have questions – especially if you’re unfamiliar with the procedure. Take time to compare your surgical options, making sure you understand the benefits, risks and expected outcomes of each.
Below we’ve answered frequently asked questions about minimally invasive and robotic surgery.
What is minimally invasive surgery?
The term “minimally invasive surgery” refers to surgical procedures that are less invasive or damaging to the body, compared to traditional surgery.
These procedures have several names, including laparoscopic surgery (laparoscopy), endoscopic surgery (endoscopy), arthroscopic surgery (arthroscopy) and robotic surgery.
Generally speaking, minimally invasive surgery is associated with less pain, a shorter hospital stay and fewer complications.
What is minimally invasive robotic surgery?
All minimally invasive surgical procedures have one thing in common: they let doctors perform surgery using fewer, or smaller, incisions. But robotic surgery is different from other minimally invasive techniques, such as laparoscopy. As the name implies, it uses robotic technology to increase precision and control.
During most minimally invasive operations, surgeons hold surgical instruments in their hands. During robotic surgery, surgical instruments (and a tiny camera) are attached to robotic arms. These arms are controlled by a specially trained surgeon from a nearby computer console.
As your surgeon moves his or her hand, wrist and fingers, the robotic arms perform the same movements in real time. Not only do the robotic arms mimic delicate movements, they can bend and rotate in ways a human hand cannot.
The computer console also displays a high-definition, close-up view of the surgical site. Throughout the procedure, your surgeon can see inside your body in three dimensions. This is another key difference – during other minimally invasive procedures, surgeons only have a two-dimensional view of the surgical field.
What are the potential benefits and risks of robotic surgery?
Minimally invasive robotic surgery is an alternative to traditional “open” surgery. It offers several potential benefits to eligible patients. These include:
- Lower risk of complications, including surgical site infection
- Less blood loss (reducing the need for a blood transfusion)
- Less pain (reducing the need for pain medication)
- Smaller, less visible scars
- Shorter hospital stay
- Faster recovery, including a quicker return to normal activities
Like all surgery, robotic surgery has immediate or long-term risks. These include:
- Surgical site infection
- Excessive bleeding
- Organ, tissue or nerve damage
- Complications from anesthesia
- Equipment failure
In addition to understanding the benefits and risks of robotic surgery, you must also have realistic expectations. For example, even though robotic surgery may cause less pain than traditional surgery, you should still expect to have some pain.
Despite a growing preference for minimally invasive procedures like robotic surgery, not everyone is a candidate. Your doctor will help you understand which surgical options are safest for you, based on your age, health and other factors. Scripps offers many other minimally invasive options, as well as traditional approaches that are more invasive but have a long history of safety and efficacy.
Does the robot or my surgeon perform the operation?
Robotic surgery relies on robotic technology, not an actual robot. The robotic arms are simply tools your surgeons uses to perform an operation – they do not replace your surgeon.
The robotic surgical system is controlled only by trained physicians. It replicates your surgeon’s movements as they happen in real time. It cannot be programmed, nor can it move, make decisions, or perform surgical maneuvers on its own.
Is robotic surgery covered by insurance?
It’s important to check with your health plan before having any surgical procedure. Many, but not all, insurance companies cover robotic surgery. Those that do cover it often categorize it as “robot-assisted minimally invasive surgery.” In most cases, if your plan covers minimally invasive surgery, it will also cover robot-assisted surgery.
How Robotic Technology Is Changing Surgery
How Robotic Technology Is Changing Surgery
In this video, San Diego Health host Susan Taylor talks with Carol Salem, MD, director of the Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery Program at Scripps, about the benefits of robotic surgery for patients and physicians alike. See the full story.
Types of robotic surgery at Scripps
Most of the minimally invasive robotic surgeries performed at Scripps use the da Vinci Surgical System. We offer dozens of procedures within the following specialties:
- Heart surgery, including mitral valve repair
- Lung surgery, including lobectomy
- Gynecologic surgery, including hysterectomy and myomectomy
- Urologic surgery, including prostatectomy
- General surgery, including colectomy, gallbladder removal and hernia repair
Scripps also offers other robot-assisted surgeries, using technology developed to treat specific medical conditions. These include:
- Robotic spine surgery using the Mazor X system
- Robotic knee replacement using the NAVIO device
Why choose Scripps for robotic surgery
The Scripps Minimally Invasive Robotic Surgery Program offers the ideal combination of experience and expertise.
If you need surgery, you want a surgical team with lots of experience performing that procedure. Scripps has some of the most proficient robotic surgeons in San Diego County.
Our team has performed more than 10,000 minimally invasive robotic surgeries since 2007. Equally important, our surgeons are required to undergo continuous, highly specialized training in robot-assisted techniques.
A rigorous commitment to quality and safety
Our program is governed by a unique set of rules and expectations intended to make robotic surgery as safe and effective as possible. Only select physicians can perform minimally invasive robotic surgery at Scripps. Approved robotic surgeons have committed to strict standards of conduct and care. These standards include:
- Practicing evidence-based medicine
- Adhering to Scripps robotic surgery safety, quality and regulatory goals
- Demonstrating the highest level of ethical and professional conduct
- Participating in ongoing quality and performance reviews
- Following specific proctoring (teaching) guidelines when training future robotic surgeons
- Reporting all patient outcomes and other required quality data
Improving access to new tools and techniques
The da Vinci Surgical System is the most established and widely studied, FDA-approved robot-assisted surgical system on the market.
In addition to offering the latest generation of da Vinci devices, Scripps surgeons use the latest surgical methods – including single-site robotic surgery. This emerging technique allows Scripps surgeons to perform robotic hysterectomy or cholecystectomy with a single incision in the navel. This hidden incision is so small, most patients heal without any visible scar.
Robotic surgery locations at Scripps
No matter where you live in San Diego, innovative surgical options are within reach. Minimally invasive robotic surgery is offered at Scripps Health locations throughout the county: