Serious surgeries can put your life on hold while you wait for your body to recover. As medical technology expands, surgeries become less invasive and more precise. The daVinci laparoscopic surgery system is a robotic device that can eliminate the need for invasive open surgeries, improving your recovery time and giving you the freedom to enjoy life again. This article discusses the daVinci laparoscopic surgery system and what this type of procedure entails.

What Is a daVinci Laparoscopic Surgery?

Laparoscopic surgeries are not a new concept to the medical world. These are minimally invasive procedures that involve making small incisions to the abdomen or pelvic area. A laparoscope, a small fiber optic camera, is inserted into the patient, allowing the surgeon to see the area properly. Previously, surgeries were completely open, requiring a direct line of sight and large cuts. With this new procedure, patients are able to recover much more quickly, with less scarring.

The daVinci laparoscopic surgery system takes this procedure to the next level. The FDA approved the daVinci laparoscopic surgery system for use in 2000. Since then, over 2000 systems have been sold in the U.S. Under the control of a trained surgeon, the daVinci system inserts a High definition, 3D laparoscope into the incision for further precision.

Unlike previous laparoscopic instruments, the daVinci system is wristed, allowing rotational movement similar to a surgeon’s hands, but with smaller instruments that are only 4-5 millimeters wide. Meanwhile, the surgeon controls the machine with instruments that attach to his/her fingers to replicate exact movements and a High Definition, 3D display panel that depicts the interior of the patient’s body. This type of procedure requires hours of additional training before being credentialed to use the system.  With training and practice, manipulating the daVinci during surgery becomes second nature to the surgeon.

Who Needs a daVinci Laparoscopic Surgery?

The daVinci system is more commonly used for hysterectomies, endometriosis surgery, myomectomies, pelvic pain surgery involving extensive adhesion removal, gynecologic cancer surgery, and urological surgeries. However, the daVinci system has also been found to be successful with cancer, neck and head injury, and cardiac surgeries.

In some instances, the robotic system can make a less invasive surgery possible in areas that even a traditional laparoscopic surgery could not. For example, the system has a distinct advantage over typical laparoscopic surgeries for hysterectomies. The 3D angle gives the surgeon a better line of sight, and the mechanical arms’ rotational ability can be more effective because that can allow bleeding to be stopped immediately, and more complex procedures can be performed due to the instruments manuverability.

The daVinci laparoscopic surgery system gives patients the best results when used for an endometriosis surgery versus traditional laparoscopy or open incisions. This surgery requires the removal of uterine cells that have spread into the pelvic cavity. Success for the surgery is critical; the alternative is a hysterectomy. Instead of a traditional open incision, the robotic system allows the surgeon to make only three or four small incisions and completely remove any endometriosis.

A robotic laparoscopic surgery is used often and always at the discretion of the surgeon if it is available at the hospital. This is primarily due to the cost and the level of training a surgeon undergoes on the machine. Currently, the cost for a daVinci laparoscopic surgery for a hysterectomy is only approximately $2,200 more than a typical laparoscopic surgery or vaginal hysterectomy.  daVinci hysterectomy costs about $900 less than an abdominal hysterectomy when factoring in the costs of staying in the hospital longer with the abdominal hysterectomy.

Risks of a daVinci Laparoscopic Surgery

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While robotic surgeries are usually considered safe, just like with any surgery, there are some risks. Surgeons take online courses and train at a certified training site and pass a skills exam.  They also must have a robotic training surgeon proctor and guide them during several surgeries.  Although surgeons must undergo additional training to operate the machines, a national training standard has not been established.

This can lead to complications due to a lack of operational training, inadequate experience of types of robotic complications or, and improper entry techniques.  In most situations, it is safe to trust your surgeon. However, ask your doctor about your surgeon and his or her experience such as how many cases performed with the daVinci system to date.  It is also important to know how frequently he or she uses the daVinci system before consenting to a robotic laparoscopic surgery.

In addition, the daVinci system, like any surgery, is associated with some risks. Some patients have claimed to experience temporary pain or tenderness from positioning on the table.  The instruments are designed to prevent accidental electrical burns when using cautery, but this is a risk of any type of laparoscopic surgery.  Fortunately,  this technology is has been utilized for 10 years and most risks are already known.

Normal Surgery related risks include:

  • Damage to other organs, nerves, or tissues
  • Potential for human error or equipment failure
  • Gas/air trapped beneath skin;
  • Risks of infection;
  • Bleeding (sometimes needing a transfusion)

Robotic surgery related risks:

  • Longer Operating time compared to large Incision surgery times
  • Possibility of temporary pain or tenderness from positioning on table
  • Possibility of converting to open procedure and thus a longer operating times

Recovery Period for a daVinci Laparoscopic Surgery

The exact recovery time depends on the procedure. Compared to open surgeries, laparoscopic surgeries have a dramatically decreased recovery time. For example, the typical inpatient hospital stay for an abdominal hysterectomy is 4-7 days.

However, with the daVinci laparoscopic surgery system, this can be reduced from 3 hours after surgery to the next day.  A patient can expect to walk around immediately and drive in 24 hours.  In addition, patients will tremendously from less scar tissue, much less bleeding, and a lower rate of complications, such as infections or blood clots.

When compared to traditional laparoscopic surgeries, research and evidence is being performed to demonstrate other advantages. In instances where traditional laparoscopic surgery can be utilized, the outcome between a laparoscopic surgery and a robotic surgery is nearly the same.  It is important to keep in mind that traditional laparoscopy is fairly limited and many of the daVinci types of surgeries can not even be attempted with just a traditional laparoscopy.  Research also suggests that the daVinci laparoscopic surgery system is a perfect alternative where open surgery was previously the only option.

Alternatives to the daVinci Laparoscopic Surgery

If you’re concerned about a robotic surgery, speak to your doctor about alternatives. Depending on your condition, there could be other procedures available, such as a traditional laparoscopic surgery. In the case of a hysterectomy, ask your doctor if a vaginal hysterectomy is possible.  Like a laparoscopic surgery, a vaginal hysterectomy is minimally invasive, less expensive, and has an almost similar recovery period.

Bottom Line

The daVinci laparoscopic surgery system has the ability to benefit thousands more patients. This machine can allow a surgeon to effortlessly work through smaller incisions. This translates into a faster recovery period and a higher level of comfort with minimal pain for patients. However, like all surgeries, this system is not without associated risks.  The daVinci experience of the doctor is a direct factor in the chance of success with the least amount of risks.

Speak with your doctor to ensure that a robotic surgery is the best solution for you. Have you undergone a surgery performed by a daVinci machine? Please share your experiences to encourage other potential robotic surgery patients.

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