Is Robotic Surgery Right For You?

April 14, 2013 Michelle Eden, MD

In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of robotic surgery. This is an exciting new technology that is being actively used by many specialists here at Swedish. In General Surgery, we have been using a minimally invasive approach called laparoscopy for many years. This allows us to use smaller incisions, giving the patient much less pain and a quicker recovery.  Robotic surgery is very similar.

Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions about robotic surgery:

Are incisions smaller with robotic surgery than with laparoscopy?

No. The incisions are pretty much the same. As a patient, you might not be able to tell much of a difference from the surface.

Do the robotic instruments allow the surgeon to perform a better operation?

In some ways, the surgeon can perceive the upgrade in technology from laparoscopic to robotic procedures. The first thing we notice is that the robotic scopes give us an extremely clear, 3-D, high definition view of the anatomy. The other main advantage for the surgeon is that the robotic instruments allow for even better manual dexterity than traditional laparoscopic instruments, with fine movements in additional directions. The improved ergonomics of robotic surgery may also decrease surgeon fatigue. Studies are ongoing to see whether this translates into better outcomes for our patients.

Is there a downside to robotic surgery?

As you can imagine, medical equipment is expensive. One consideration of robotic surgery is a higher cost. Hospitals and physicians are figuring out the most responsible way to employ technology like robotic surgery in this era of rising health care costs.


The decision to use a robotic approach for surgery is made on an individual basis. If you are considering surgery, talk to your surgeon about whether this is something that might be appropriate for you. Some of the surgeries that can now be done robotically in General Surgery include cholecystectomy (gallbladder), Nissen fundoplication (antireflux surgery), colectomy (colon & rectal surgery), and pancreatectomy.

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