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robotic surgery (robot-assisted surgery)

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

Robotic surgery is the use of computer technologies working in conjunction with robot systems to perform medical procedures. The technology is also known as computer-aided surgery and robot-assisted surgery.

Robotic surgery is most often used for minimally-invasive telemedicine procedures in which a physician guides the technology through a console. Typically, the surgeon is in the same room as the operating table but could potentially be across the world. The systems are also used for some open surgeries. Robotic surgery provides the surgeon with a better view, enhancing control, flexibility and precision. Benefits for the patient include lowered risk of infection, less blood loss, smaller incisions and faster recovery time.

The most commonly used technology for robot-assisted surgery is the da Vinci Surgical System, which was approved by the United States FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in 2000 and has been employed in thousands of procedures since. The da Vinci SI involves miniaturized surgical instruments mounted on three robotic arms and a fourth arm with a magnified 3D camera. A console provides a view of the site for the surgeon, who manipulates the instruments through finger-operated master controls. The surgeon can select the scale for movements: In a four-to-one scale, for example, the tip of the particular robotic arm will move one inch for every four inches that the surgeon's hand moves.

Watch a brief introduction to the da Vinci robotic surgery system:

This was last updated in December 2017

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