The da Vinci Surgical System is a type of robotic surgical system that helps surgeons with complex surgeries by using an approach that is less invasive than old fashioned surgery techniques. With the impressive advancement of technology, especially robotics, it should come as no surprise that nowadays, that you can have a robotic surgery in hospitals all across the world. Today, I’m going to tell you everything there is to know about the da Vinci Surgical System. I’ll tackle its history, uses, application, benefits, and criticism.

da Vinci Surgical System: A Comprehensive Guide

History and Figures

The da Vinci Surgical System was created by the American company Intuitive Surgical. The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved it in 2002, which made it the first platform of its kind. Never before had a robotic surgical platform been used in the United States at a commercial level.

Nowadays, the system is used all around the world. There are over 3,900 such systems installed worldwide, and as of 2016, an impressive number of 775,000 patients have already had a da Vinci robotic surgical procedure.


The da Vinci Surgical System is mainly used for gynecologic surgeries, general surgeries, and urologic surgeries.  Some examples are hysterectomy, pelvic prolapse, hernia repairs, bariatric surgeries, gall bladder surgeries, prostate cancer, and kidney surgeries. However, this system is starting to be used more and more for other types of procedures as well, like colorectal surgery, head and neck surgery, and cardio thoracic surgery.  These examples are colon resections, intestine surgery, rectal surgery, cancers of tongue and tonsils, heart valve surgeries, and lung surgeries


If you’re not familiar with what robotic surgery entails, the way the da Vinci Surgical System completes surgeries will definitely amaze you. This system uses very small incisions and it comes with a lot of impressive features that make operating easier.  For instance, it uses a 10x magnified vision system. This system allows the surgeon to look inside the patient’s body and see a 3D HD image. Another thing worth mentioning are the wristed instruments it comes with. These instruments rotate and bend much more than a human hand ever could, making surgery easier and more comfortable.  The surgeon is able to use small instruments and “turn corners” around blood vessels and tissues and stop bleeding before the first drop even starts to come out of the blood vessel.

The shape of the da Vinci Surgical System also contributes to its success. Not only is it placed next to the patient as he or she comfortably positioned during surgery, but it also has an ergonomically designed console that keeps the surgeon comfortable while operating as well.  This minimizes fatigue so the surgeon can completely focus on the patient.

The robotic technology that makes the da Vinci Surgical System one of a kind translates the surgeon’s hand movements into much smaller and more precise ones. The instruments move inside the patient’s body exactly as controlled by the surgeon. Among the instruments the system uses, one of the most important ones is a High Definition, magnified, 3D camera, an advanced laparoscope. This is an extremely thin tube that has a light and a camera at the end. It provides the surgeon with video images throughout the surgery.  When operating with the da Vinci system the surgeon feels like he or she is inside the patient’s body right next to the tissue being operated on and feels like his or her hands are actually surgical instruments.  It is very similar to the movie Avatar³.


Since so many hospitals worldwide are using the da Vinci Surgical System, it goes without saying that it is doing something right. The first benefit I’d like to mention is the precision with which it’s operating on people. It is much more precise than a human hand could ever be.  Even so, it’s still controlled by human hands, so it’s basically like an extension of your surgeon’s arm. The system’s dexterity is amazing, especially since it manages to complete minimally invasive surgeries, which wouldn’t happen through old fashioned methods.

Another benefit that makes this system so effective and important for the advancement of modern surgery is that it provides patients with the choice to not be opened up during surgery with a large painful barbaric incision. This minimizes the risks of complications to the patient during the surgery and post-op as well. Just imagine the fact that you don’t have to have a large incision as you normally would have in the past.

The da Vinci Surgical System not only improve the patient’s well-being, but also that of the surgeon. Why? Because unlike traditional surgery, where the surgeon has to stand and use stiff instruments that are difficult to maneuver, this type of surgery makes things more comfortable for the surgeon. He or she can sit down, operate from a more comfortable position, use flexible instruments, see HD 3D imagining, and so on.  Moreover, they no longer need other people in the operating room to adjust the camera or operate the instruments on the other side of the patient like in old fashioned open surgery or regular laparoscopy. They can do that by themselves by simply moving their hand.

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As any other technological advancement, be it in medicine or some other field, the da Vinci Surgical System has seen its fair share of criticism as well. The first complaint people have about it is that it takes a while for surgeons to get used to it. Moreover, surgeons don’t have the possibility of modifying anything about the system. Basically, what they see is what they get. Another criticism brought to the da Vinci Surgical System is its high price. To have this system in your institution, you have to pay $1.5-2 million, which makes it difficult for small hospitals and facilities around the world.

However, as a da Vinci surgeon for the past 10 years performing over 700 da Vinci procedures I can honestly say the following:  Surgeons should do what is best for the patients, all the time.   Also, surgeons had to learn surgeries in medical school and residency, so it should not be any problem for us to learn how to use a new instrument that benefits our patients.  I have trained many surgeons in da Vinci surgery, and I can truly say that the da Vinci system is easy to learn.  The challenge is getting surgeons to accept “change”, once a surgeon witnesses first hand how amazing the patients recover with the da Vinci system, they usually agree that robotic surgery is the future and it is best for patients.


Summing Everything Up

The da Vinci Surgical System is definitely one of the most innovative medical advances in recent years. It has made many types of surgeries less invasive, more comfortable both for the patients most importantly, and ergonomically better for surgeons. Although it is the same price for patients with insurance, the up front cost for the hospitals is higher but a lot of hospitals all around the world have purchased it because it decreases the amount of inpatient bed costs.  More and more patients, surgeons, and hospitals are recognizing how beneficial it truly is to have a da Vinci Surgical System.   Regardless of any criticism it has received, I can safely say it has changed modern medicine as we know it, for the better.


Image Source: 1,2

3. Cameron, James, Jon Landau, Sam Worthington, Zoë Saldana, Giovanni Ribisi, Michelle Rodriguez, Stephen Lang, Joel D. Moore, C C. H. Pounder, Wes Studi, Laz Alonso, and Sigourney Weaver. Avatar. Beverly Hills, Calif: 20th Century Fox, 2010.

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