Advantages and limits of robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery: preliminary experience
In the last few years, robotics has been applied in clinical practice for a variety of laparoscopic procedures. This study reports our preliminary experience using robotics in the field of general surgery to evaluate the advantages and limitations of robot-assisted laparoscopy.
Thirty-two consecutive patients were scheduled to undergo robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery in our units from March 2002 to July 2003. The indications were cholecystectomy, 20 patients; right adrenalectomy, two points; bilateral varicocelectomy, two points; Heller’s cardiomyotomy, two points; Nissen’s fundoplication, two points; total splenectomy, one point; right colectomy, one point; left colectomy, 1 point; and bilateral inguinal hernia repair, one point. In all cases, we used the da Vinci surgical system, with the surgeon at the robotic work station and an assistant by the operating table.
Twenty-nine of 32 procedures (90.6%) were completed robotically, whereas three were converted to laparoscopic surgery. Conversion to laparoscopy was due in two patients to minor bleeding that could not be managed robotically and to robot malfunction in the third patient. There were no deaths. Median hospital stay was 2.2 days (range, 2–8).
The main advantages of robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery are the availability of three-dimensional vision and easier instrument manipulation than can be obtain with standard laparoscopy. The learning curve to master the robot was ≥ 10 robotic procedures. The main limitations are the large diameter of the instruments (8 mm) and the limited number of robotic arms (maximum, three). We consider these technical shortcomings to be the cause for our conversions, because it is difficult to manage bleeding episodes with only two operating instruments. The benefit to the patient must be evaluated carefully and proven before this technology can become widely accepted in general surgery.
KeywordsRobotics Laparoscopy da Vinci surgical robot
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