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What is Robotic-Assisted Surgery?

Urology medicine is traditionally an innovative, early adopter of advances in medical and surgical treatments. One of the biggest advancements in "minimally invasive surgery" is the introduction of robotic assistance in laparoscopic surgery.

Surgical robotic technology pioneered by Intuitive Surgical, maker of the da Vinci© Surgical System, uses a robotic arm system to perform high-precision surgical tasks. In urology, it is mainly used to perform prostate removals (prostatectomies), repair of obstructed kidneys (ureteropelvic junction obstructions), and partial or total kidney removals (nephrectomies).

Urologists may use minimally invasive surgery to correct issues that affect your urinary system, female reproductive system and male reproductive system (genitourinary systems).

What is robotic urological surgery?

In robotic urological surgery, urologists use mechanical arms that they control with a surgical console. The arms contain small surgical instruments with "wrists" at the tip, allowing for a greater range of motion and finesse. There's also a special camera that surgeons use in robotic surgery. It creates 3D images that enable the urologist and the rest of the surgical team to see the affected areas.

What does robotic urological surgery treat?

Minimally invasive urological surgery treats a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Bladder cancer.
  • Kidney cancer.
  • Prostate cancer.
  • Kidney cysts.
  • Pelvic organ prolapse.
  • Benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH).

What are some of the most common robotic urological procedures?

Some common minimally invasive urological procedures include:

Vaginal prolapse repair. A vaginal prolapse repair fixes your vaginal wall after it falls from its normal location in your body. A urologist will use a variety of techniques to restore support.

Partial nephrectomy. During a partial nephrectomy, a urologist will remove part of your kidney. They may use a surgical robot if you have a small kidney tumor. The robot has small arms that can make precise movements in hard-to-reach areas in your body. Using a surgical robot means you don't have to have open surgery.

Radical nephrectomy. During a radical nephrectomy, a urologist will remove your entire kidney. They may completely remove your kidney if you have kidney tumors or kidneys that don't work (nonfunctioning), don't drain very well or cause symptoms.

Radical cystectomy. A urologist may use a laparoscope or robot to remove your entire urinary bladder.

Simple prostatectomy. BPH can cause your prostate to become very large and obstruct your pee flow. During this procedure, a urologist removes the inner portion of the prostate to improve your pee flow. They may perform a simple prostatectomy robotically or laparoscopically.

Radical prostatectomy. In this surgery, your urologist treats prostate cancer by removing your prostate gland. Urologists do this surgery when you have prostate cancer that hasn't spread (metastasized) to other areas of your body. They can perform the procedure laparoscopically or robotically.

Pyeloplasty. During a robotic or laparoscopic pyeloplasty, a urologist will cut out (excise) a narrowed and/or poorly draining section of your ureter (pee tube). They then reconstruct the ureter to allow for better drainage.

What are the benefits of robotic urological surgery?

The primary benefits of minimally invasive urological surgery include:

  • Less blood loss.
  • Shorter hospital stay.
  • Lower risk of infection.
  • Faster recovery time.
  • Less pain medication.
  • Smaller scars.
  • High success rates

What are the risks or complications of robotic urological surgery?

All surgeries come with general risks. These include:

  • Anesthesia risks.
  • Infection.
  • Healing problems.
  • Fluid buildup at surgical sites (seroma).

Talk to your urologist about additional risks for specific surgeries.

What is the recovery time after robotic urological surgery?

The different types of minimally invasive urological surgery have different recovery times, typically, recovery time is 2 weeks. Your urologist will give you a better estimate of your recovery time according to your procedure.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

After minimally invasive urological surgery, contact your healthcare provider right away if you notice any of the following:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever or chills.
  • Long-lasting nausea and vomiting.
  • Heavy bleeding at your incisions.
  • Increasing discoloration, swelling, pain or pus around your incisions.
  • Pain that you can't manage with prescribed medications.

What is the difference between robotic urological surgery and open urological surgery?

Robotic urological surgery uses very small incisions and a laparoscope or surgical robot to help perform the surgery. These tools allow your surgical team to see your affected areas and perform the surgery without damaging much of the surrounding areas. You usually spend less time recovering at the hospital, and your overall recovery is faster.

Open urological surgery is a more traditional surgical approach. Your urologist makes a large incision in your body with a sharp knife (scalpel). The incision is at least 3 inches long, but it may be as long as 12 inches or more, depending on the type of procedure. Your urologist looks at your affected areas and performs the procedure through the incision. Open surgery usually requires you to spend more time recovering at a hospital. Your overall recovery usually takes longer than minimally invasive urological surgery.

Minimally invasive urological surgery uses medical technologies and techniques to make surgery easier on your body. It's less invasive, which means you spend less time at the hospital, and your recovery time is faster. It can also make surgery less intimidating because there are fewer risks than open surgery. Talk to our urologist about howwe'll use minimally invasive urological surgery to treat your condition. We can answer any questions you may have about a specific approach.