Definition

A doctor uses robotic arms to operate through small keyhole incisions in the abdomen.

The robotic arms are able to do surgical tasks with an increased range of motion. They also can filter out hand tremor. The special tools translate the doctor’s larger hand movements into smaller ones. This allows delicate work to occur in small spaces.

Laparoscopic Cholecystectomy
laparascopic cholecystectomy
Close-up view of laparoscopic tools used to remove the gallbladder (green structure).
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Reasons for Procedure

Some laparoscopic surgeries that have been successful using robotic techniques include:

Compared to more traditional procedures, robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery may result in:

  • Less scarring
  • Reduced recovery times
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less blood loss
  • Reduced trauma to the body
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Faster recovery

Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a robot-assisted laparoscopic procedure, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Damage to neighboring organs or structures
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Anesthesia-related problems
  • The need to switch to traditional surgical methods such as traditional laparoscopic or open surgery

Factors that may increase the risk of complications include:

Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Depending on the reason for your surgery, your doctor may do the following:

Leading up to the procedure:

  • Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure, like:
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs
    • Blood thinners
    • Anti-platelet medications
  • Take antibiotics if instructed.
  • Take a laxative and/or use an enema to clean out your intestines if instructed.
  • Follow a special diet if instructed.
  • Shower the night before using antibacterial soap if instructed.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital. Also, have someone to help you at home.
  • Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.

Anesthesia

Depending on the type of procedure that you have, you may be given:

  • General anesthesia —blocks pain and keeps you asleep through the surgery
  • Local anesthesia—just the area that is being operated on is numbed; given as an injection and may also be given with a sedative

Description of the Procedure

Several small incisions will be made. They are called keyhole incisions. Carbon dioxide gas will be passed into the abdomen to expand it. This will make it easier for the doctor to view the area.

A small camera will be passed through one of the incisions. This tool is called an endoscope. It lights, magnifies, and projects an image of the organs onto a video screen. The endoscope will be attached to one of the robotic arms. The other arms will hold tools that are able to grasp, cut, dissect, and suture. These may include:

  • Forceps
  • Scissors
  • Dissectors
  • Scalpels
Laparoscopic Tools
Laparascopic tools
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The doctor will sit at a console, looking at the images on the screen. Joystick-like hand controls and foot pedals will help to guide the tools. Another doctor will stay by you to adjust the tools as needed. In some cases, organs or tissue might need to be removed. When the procedure is done, the tools will be removed. The incisions will be closed with sutures or staples and a sterile dressing will be applied.

How Long Will It Take?

About 1-2 hours, depending on the type of procedure

How Much Will It Hurt?

You will have pain and discomfort during recovery. You will be given pain medication. You may also feel bloated or have pain in your shoulder from the gas used during the procedure. This can last up to three days.

Average Hospital Stay

This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is 1-2 days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if you have any problems.

Post-procedure Care

When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • Wash the incisions with mild soap and water.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
  • Take antibiotics to help prevent infection if instructed.
  • Avoid certain medicines.
  • Resume normal activities. This will promote healing. You will have to avoid other activities, like driving, sexual activity, and strenuous exercise.
  • Gradually progress from a liquid to a solid diet.
  • To avoid constipation :
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

Depending on the procedure, you should make a full recovery within a few weeks.

Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from an incision site
  • Abdominal swelling or pain
  • Severe nausea or vomiting
  • Persistent diarrhea or constipation
  • Blood in the stool
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
  • Cough, shortness of breath, chest pain
  • Being unable to eat or drink liquids
  • Headache, feeling faint or lightheaded
  • Excessive vaginal bleeding after a gynecologic procedure
  • Persistent or foul smelling vaginal discharge after a gynecologic procedure
  • Other worrisome symptoms

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.

Revision Information

  • American College of Surgeons

    http://www.facs.org

  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

    http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov

  • Canadian Cardiovascular Society

    http://www.ccs.ca

  • Health Canada

    http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca

  • The da Vinci surgical system. University of Southern California, Cardiothoracic Surgery website. Available at: http://www.cts.usc.edu/rsi-davincisystem.html . Accessed July 25, 2013.

  • Robotic surgery. Brown University website. Available at: http://biomed.brown.edu/Courses/BI108/BI108%5F2005%5FGroups/04/ . Accessed July 25, 2013.

  • Robotic surgery. Thinkquest website. Available at: http://library.thinkquest.org/03oct/00760/ . Accessed July 25, 2013.

  • Ruurda JP, van Vroonhoven ThJMV, Broeders IAMJ. Robot-assisted surgical systems: a new era in laparoscopic surgery. Ann R Coll Surg Engl . 2002;84:223-226.

  • 6/3/2011 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Mills E, Eyawo O, Lockhart I, Kelly S, Wu P, Ebbert JO. Smoking cessation reduces postoperative complications: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Am J Med. 2011;124(2):144-154.e8.