So You're Having Robotic Surgery: What to Expect

Feb 1, 2013 -  Robot helps remove man’s colon cancer. It sounds like the headline on a supermarket tabloid, but robot-assisted surgery has been a medical reality since the 1990s, and has become more common in adults and children ever since.

So now that you’ve elected this somewhat sci-fi procedure, what can you expect? Most recently, Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN) was chosen as the sixth Colorectal Robotic Surgery Training Center in the United States. So let’s walk through what to expect as if you were going in for colorectal surgery.

The Basics: How Robotic Surgery Works
As you might expect, it’s all about how advanced your robot is. That’s why ECHN is pleased to offer the da Vinci® Si™ Surgical System with Firefly technology to our colorectal cancer patients. It’s the safest and most advanced technology in surgery today and for patients facing a colorectal resection it can truly make a big difference.

The basic idea is this: your surgeon is getting an extra pair of hands and eyes. He or she sits at a computer and controls a robotic arm holding tiny, delicate surgical instruments. Three-dimensional images from an endoscope—a camera on a long, thin tube inserted through your surgical cut—appear on a screen in front of the surgeon. Then the surgeon can go about the procedure in a more efficient and precise way.

“The da Vinci® is allowing my surgeons to perform procedures more efficiently, with less pain and scarring for the patients,” said Dr. Skip Walters, MD, leader of the Manchester Memorial Hospital Colorectal Epicenter program at ECHN. “The da Vinci® is more than a robot. This system is revolutionizing the operating room for colorectal surgery and beyond.”

How daVinci® Is Making a Difference in Colorectal Care
When it comes to colorectal surgery specifically, the dexterity and vision of daVinci® is helping surgeons with a process that was otherwise extremely time consuming. Of course these time and efficiency savings are passed on to the patients.

Another great benefit: smaller incisions. Colorectal procedures are usually performed via traditional open surgery, meaning a large open abdominal incision is made from the pubic bone to just below the breastbone. But the da Vinci® System allows doctors to perform delicate and complex operations through a few tiny incisions.

In the Recovery Room
So you went under, had a nice nap and a robot helped your surgeon with a big undertaking. The next step is always recovery. That’s where da Vinci® Robotic Surgery is a standout. Because the robotic surgery only makes small incisions in the body, there is less trauma and therefore the recovery is much faster. While every patient is different, the reduction in hospital stay and recovery is significant.

The Potential Benefits of a Robot-assisted Surgery Over Traditional Surgery:
Less pain1
Fewer complications2
Less blood loss3, 4
Shorter hospital stay4
Low risk of wound infection6
Quicker recovery and return to normal activities6

Finding the Right Place for Your Robotic Surgery
Once you’ve made the decision to go with robotic surgery, the next step is finding a hospital and a doctor that supports this new technology. The good news is ECHN is ahead of the curve and both Manchester Memorial Hospital and Rockville General Hospital have a comprehensive Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery Program.

“We believe that the new features of the da Vinci® Si™ Robotic System will help us provide the best possible outcomes and is proof of our commitment to provide our community access to the latest advancements in minimally invasive surgery,” says Peter J. Karl, President & CEO of Eastern Connecticut Health Network.

  1. Ko EM, Muto MG, Berkowitz RS, Feltmate CM. Robotic versus open radical hysterectomy: a comparative study at a single institution. Gynecol Oncol. 2008 Dec;111(3):425-30. Epub 2008 Oct 16.
  2. Piquion-Joseph JM, Navar A, Ghazaryan A, Papanna R, Klimek W, Laroia R. Robot-assisted gynecological surgery in a community setting. Journal of Robotic Surgery, 2009:1-4.
  3. DeNardis SA, Holloway RW, Bigsby GE, Pikaart DP, Ahmad S, and Finkler NJ. Robotically assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy versus total abdominal hysterectomy and lymphadenectomy for endometrial cancer. Gynecologic Oncology 2008;111:412-417.
  4. Payne, T. N. and F. R. Dauterive. A comparison of total laparoscopic hysterectomy to robotically assisted hysterectomy: surgical outcomes in a community practice. J Minim Invasive Gynecol, 2008;15(3): 286-291.
  5. Boggess JF, Gehrig PA, Cantrell L, Shafer A, Ridgway M, Skinner EN, Fowler WC. A comparative study of 3 surgical methods for hysterectomy with staging for endometrial cancer: robotic assistance, laparoscopy, laparotomy. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2008 Oct;199(4):360.e1-9.
  6. Bell MC, Torgerson J, Seshadri-Kreaden U, Suttle AW, Hunt S. Comparison of outcomes and cost for endometrial cancer staging via traditional laparotomy, standard laparoscopy and robotic techniques. Gynecol Oncol. 2008 Dec;111(3):407-11. Epub 2008 Oct 1.

Online Medical Reviewer: Chang, Alice

Last Annual Review Date: 7/26/2010

© 2000-2012 Krames StayWell, 780 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.

“Facing Surgery for Colorectal Cancer?” Intuitive Surgical, Inc, patient brochure.


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