The da Vinci® Surgical System is a medical treatment option that uses a robotic surgery system to create a minimally invasive alternative for laparoscopy and some open surgeries. This technology makes it possible for doctors to make a handful of tiny incisions to treat the patient, providing better precision, control, and vision for the surgeon while working. Patients can then recover sooner because there are fewer incisions involved, allowing individuals to move on to their next treatment need or return to their daily routine faster.
Although this surgical option is available for a variety of procedures, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America ® uses it as a treatment for a variety of different cancer surgeries, including liver, stomach, prostate, pancreas, and colon diagnoses. It is sometimes used to treat gynecologic cancers as well.
The surgeon operates from a seated position at a console. Their eyes and hands are in line with the instruments. Then a 3-D, high-definition view of the target anatomy is displayed to produce the intended results. These are the pros and cons of the da Vinci robotic surgery to consider.
List of the Pros of the da Vinci Robotic Surgery
1. There is less pain involved with the da Vinci surgery.
Because this robotic surgery creates fewer and smaller incisions than an open surgery might require, patients typically experience less recovery pain after the procedure. It may even allow for some outpatient procedures to occur, or an option to come home the day after the surgery if it occurs in the morning. Although no surgery is 100% pain-free, choosing da Vinci if it is available allows you to get back on your feet a lot faster when compared to the overall traditional approach.
2. There is a lower risk of complications or infections with this surgery.
The da Vinci robotic surgery system makes smaller incisions during the procedure, which means there are fewer opportunities for an infection to set in after the surgery. You have a lower risk of complications when choosing this option as well thanks to the impersonal nature of the equipment. Although a surgeon is at the controls using a 3-D image of the body to guide the process, there are fewer chances for “leftovers” to remain in the body after completion.
The reduced impact on the body reduces the risk of bacterial interference with the process. It reduces the risk of an accidental injury during the recovery phase. That means people can heal faster and more completely after the medical work is complete.
3. There are shorter hospital stays with the da Vinci surgery.
When using the da Vinci robotic system for surgery, the smaller incisions lead to a shorter time in recovery. That means some patients can get out of the hospital sooner than they would with the traditional surgical approach. Surgeons can access the intended area with greater precision and less of a physical impact, which is why the time in post-op is considerably lower with most procedures. It is such an effective process that it can be useful as an outpatient option for some health issues. There are patients who can even come home after coming out of general anesthesia on the same day. That also means there are fewer scarring issues that occur during the healing process since the access areas are much smaller.
4. There is a faster return to the normal activities of life.
Depending on the patient diagnosis or the type of cancer that requires treatment, individuals can get back to their normal routines of life much faster thanks to the da Vinci system. That means you can regain urinary continence, restore sexual function, or begin to exercise lightly much sooner than you would before the invention of this surgical option.
The reason why this advantage is possible is because of the advantages that are available to the surgeon. The da Vinci system provides more precision, increases the range of motion for the physician, and improves the available dexterity of the work.
5. There is an enhancement in the visualization for the surgeon.
The da Vinci system allows the surgeon to see an enhanced view of the anatomy and what surgical interventions need to occur. This process makes it easier to see the problem areas that require fixing. It is even possible to see areas that may not be possible with the naked eye, even with the presence of magnifying lenses in the operating theater. That means surgeons have an improved ability to spare healthy tissues that are no impacted by cancer when this option is available for the patient.
6. There is less fatigue associated with the surgery for the physician.
Surgeons use the da Vinci robotic system while sitting down, which means there is less overall fatigue associated with this option compared to the traditional intervention. That’s not to say that doctors won’t become tired during a long surgery, because they do, but there are fewer risk factors involved with a prolonged procedure since the activities take place in a low-impact environment.
The surgical robot can also be used by multiple doctors when necessary for an extended procedure. You can also use the equipment with rotating surgical teams throughout the day, with proper disinfecting techniques, to eliminate the human restrictions which are sometimes in place in some facilities.
7. There are fewer blood loss issues with a successful da Vinci surgery.
Robotic surgeries have significantly less blood loss for the patient when you compare the da Vinci techniques to the open approach. That means there are lower transfusion rates that occur during the hospital stay, and then the length of time during recovery is much less as well. Although the cost of the procedure may be higher in some geographical areas, patients can make up some of the expense with savings on the recovery end of the process.
Some complications from surgery are also lower with the da Vinci system, including deep vein thrombosis, lymphoceles, hematomas, ureteral injuries, anastomotic leaks, and wound infections. That means there is an even lower cost expectation in the follow-up to consider for some individuals as well.
List of the Cons of the da Vinci Robotic Surgery
1. Some surgeries may require you to be held in an unnatural position.
The da Vinci robotic surgery system attempts to keep patients in as natural of a position as possible during the procedure. There are times when access is not possible using the usual method, which means you need to be placed in an unusual position while the surgeon does their work. That means you have the risk of suffering from permanent nerve damage if you are kept in that state for an extended time.
There is also the risk of other physical injuries for some procedures if you are kept in an unnatural state for a long time. These are in addition to the typical risks of surgery that everyone faces when a surgeon needs to intervene for their medical care.
2. Tactile feedback is eliminated through the robotic system.
Surgeons do not receive the same levels of tactile feedback when working on a patient when they use the da Vinci system over a manual option. That means there is a slight increase in the risk of an injury if an adjacent organ is hit during the medical procedure. Because equipment is being used instead of the hands of a doctor, there is an increased risk of suffering a burn when choosing this option.
This disadvantage is mitigated through the training process for each doctor and continued with their experience in the operating theater, but it still exists.
3. There are no national training standards in the U.S. for robotic surgery.
One of the most significant advantages of the da Vinci robotic surgery system is that there are no national medical standards to follow for this procedure. Many surgeons receive their training online, and then they receive a one-day session at the facility which manufactures the equipment. Some doctors will receive supervised surgeries, usually 1-2, before being fully released to use the equipment independently.
It is up to the individual hospital to determine if their doctors are qualified to use the robotic systems in their facilities. It can take a long time to master this minimally invasive technology, so patients must perform their due diligence when deciding if this option is the best choice for your medical needs.
4. Cost considerations may come into play for some patients.
The cost of any surgery is going to be a significant medical expense for patients in the United States. Hospital costs in the U.S. average about $4,000 per day, which is an expense that incurs about $15,000. Then you have the cost of the surgery to consider. If you have a heart valve replacement, then the expense may be as high as $200,000 in some markets. Some cancer surgeries run in the $150,000 range. Even a gastric bypass may be upwards of $25,000, which is in addition to the costs of the hospital stay.
5. The equipment can malfunction during the surgical intervention.
One of the risks of using robotic technology for a surgery is that there can be malfunctions that occur, even if the maintenance schedule is kept up-to-date on the equipment. If this disadvantage occurs in the middle of a procedure, then the arms of the da Vinci system may not respond as anticipated. That can mean the surgery can take longer than expected, require a physical intervention to complete the work, and can enhance the risk of complication in some situations.
The reality of robotic surgery is that it may not offer many long-term benefits for patients that are comparable to open techniques, which means the advantages all involve short-term circumstances. If the surgery is successful, then you will recover either way over time, so the expense may become your top consideration.
Verdict on the Pros and Cons of the da Vinci Robotic Surgery
As with any surgery, a patient should think twice about using the da Vinci robotic system if what is necessary is a routine procedure. If you need a hernia repair, gallbladder removal, gastric bypass, or a standard colon surgery, then the complexity of this option might not be suitable for your needs.
On the other hand, the dexterity of the robot with this system may make complex cancer surgeries, the removal of neck or head tumors, and options where a minimally invasive choice is not available easier to manage during and after the procedure.
When evaluating the pros and cons of the da Vinci robot surgery, you will want to look at the key points individually with your doctor. It is your comfort level with this process, along with the experience of your physician, that should guide you toward your final decision.