About Robotic Surgery

Biotechnology & Healthcare Robotic Surgery
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What is Robotic Surgery?

If a doctor tells you that you need surgery, you may feel confused and concerned. You are probably worried about whether the surgery will be successful, how much pain you may have and how much time you will miss from work. The good news is that with advances in surgical technology, you can expect a very different surgery experience at UCLA.

da Vinci™ surgical system

Robotic surgery is currently carried out with the use of the da Vinci™ surgical system, a unique set of technologies that include specialized “arms” for holding instruments and a camera, as well as a magnified screen and a console.

Understanding Robotic Surgery

Benefits of Robotic Surgery

Concerns about Robotic Surgery


What is Minimally Invasive Surgery?

Minimally invasive are just two fancy words that mean smaller incisions. These types of surgeries mean shorter hospitalization and faster recovery for patients. Other benefits may be:

  • Less blood
  • Less scarring
  • Reduced risk of infection
  • Faster return to your life

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How Does the Robotic Surgical System Work?

To operate using the Robotic system, your surgeon makes tiny incisions in your body and inserts miniaturized instruments and a high-definition three-dimensional camera, and sometimes skin incisions are not required at all. Then, from a nearby console, your surgeon manipulates those instruments to perform the operation.

Think of the Robotic system system like a video game. When you play a video game, you move a control button, and the machine translates your movements into real-time, mimicking your moves precisely on the screen. During a Robotic-assisted procedure, your surgeon uses master controls to manipulate the instruments, and the instruments translate your surgeon’s movements into precise movements inside your body. Your surgeon is in control the whole time; the surgical system responds to the direction he provides.

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Is a robot operating on me?

We also know many patients are concerned about the idea of a robot performing surgery.  You should know that the Robotic Surgical System is really a system that allows your surgeon to make precise, delicate motions while controlling the machine.  The robot is never, ever making decisions or performing incisions. Rather, your surgeon is telling the robot what to do, and the robot allows for greater precision than the human hand on its own.

The Robotic system cannot “think” on its own. It only responds to your surgeon’s precise hand and finger movements. Your surgeon is in the operating room, directing the procedure the entire time.

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Robotic Surgery: What to Expect

During a Robotic-assisted surgery, your surgeon “directs” the surgery from nearby, but does not stand over you like during a traditional surgery. While each surgery is different, here are the general steps to a Robotic-assisted surgery:

  1. Your surgeon makes tiny (one to two centimeter-long) incisions in your body.
  2. Your doctor inserts a miniature robotic instruments and a powerful camera into your body.
  3. Your surgeon then sits at a nearby console (a large computer) to direct the procedure. At the console, the area of operation can be seen highly magnified, with excellent resolution.
  4. Sitting at the console, your surgeon manipulates the controls.
  5. The instruments respond to these movements, and translate them into precise, real-time movements inside your body.
  6. The robotic devices, which have greater dexterity and range of motion than a human, allow your surgeon to successfully perform delicate surgeries in hard-to-reach places.

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What are the Benefits of Robotic-assisted Surgery?

There are many benefits to having a Robotic-assisted surgery. A Robotic-assisted surgery benefits you directly—shorter recovery time—as well as indirectly—the surgeon has better visualization, leading to a more precise surgery. Other benefits:

  • Your surgeon has greater range of motion and dexterity
  • Your surgeon sees a highly-magnified, high-resolution image of the operating field
  • Your surgeon has better access to the area being operated on
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less blood loss and fewer blood transfusions
  • Less pain
  • Faster recovery
  • Quicker return to daily routine

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What Conditions Can be Treated with Robotic Surgery?

Many conditions have been successfully treated using Robotic-assisted surgery. These include:

Can any Doctor Perform Robotic Surgery?

Without proper training, any doctor cannot simply walk into an operating room and direct a robotic surgery. However, any doctor can be successfully trained in the Robotic Surgical System. That is why at UCLA, we have invested so much in not only training our surgeons, but also in training our entire robotic surgical team, so that patients can expect the best possible experience. Meet our robotic surgeons.

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Is Robotic Surgery Safe? 

By coming to UCLA where safety and quality is our highest priority. We have training supported by simulation and educational programs where we train not only our own doctors but also those from across the country to be the best and most skilled in their craft.

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How Does the Robotic Surgeon See What He or She is Doing?

There is a camera inside your body, which sends real-time images to your surgeon, seated at the console. In fact, the images your surgeon sees using the Robotic System are more highly magnified, with a sharper resolution, then what he or she would see standing over you.

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How Many Days Will I Miss from Work?

Every patient is different and you should discuss your recovery with your doctor. In general, patients may stay in the hospital one to two nights and then return home. Most patients find they have recovered fully within six weeks of surgery.

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Pain Management Options after Robotic Surgery

We take pain management after surgery very seriously at UCLA. Our teams research effective pain management techniques for use after surgery, including robotic surgery. They will work with you to make sure your pain is managed well before, during and after the surgery. As we know people’s pain can continue when they return home, we will also help develop a pain treatment plan for you for when you leave the hospital.

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