What is robotic-assisted surgery?

UC Davis Medical Center surgeons are highly experienced in using da Vinci robotic-assisted systems to treat a variety of conditions, ranging from prostate and gynecologic cancers to upper-GI tract conditions such as hiatal hernias and achalasia. Surgical robots are operating-room machines completely controlled by skilled surgeons, who use hand and foot controls to manipulate mechanical arms from a console near the patient’s bed. 

UC Davis recently added the ExcelsiusGPS to its robotics surgery program. The system, which combines advanced imaging and navigation technology, is used exclusively by our neurosurgeons for precise placement of screws during spinal stabilization surgery.

How does robotic-assisted surgery work?

Working from a special console in the operating room, a surgeon operates several precision-guided robotic arms that hold and manipulate miniaturized instruments that are inserted through keyhole-sized incisions. A small video camera provides surgeons with magnified 3D images of the operating site. This expansive view allows doctors to see and avoid surrounding nerves and muscles. The robotic arms, which can rotate 360 degrees, enable surgical instruments to be moved with greater precision, flexibility and range of motion than in standard minimally invasive laparoscopy.

Most procedures take two to three hours under general anesthesia. Patients typically experience only minimal blood loss, and blood transfusions are rarely needed. Depending on the condition being treated, patients often only spend one night in the hospital and are usually discharged as soon as their laboratory tests are acceptable, their pain is controlled and they are able to retain liquids.

What are the benefits to patients?

Robotics procedures, and minimally invasive surgeries in general, involve smaller incisions than traditional “open” surgeries, which reduces blood loss and postoperative recovery times. Patients typically experience significantly less pain and blood loss than in conventional “open incision” procedures. Patients also tend to enjoy quicker recovery times. Traditional open surgery can require several days of hospitalization and recovery time can last several months. While every case is unique, the return to normal, everyday activities (except for lifting heavy objects and strenuous exercise) following robotic-assisted surgery can occur in as little as two to three weeks.

Why is there less blood loss with robotic-assisted surgery?

The use of the robotic equipment in surgery means a more precise and less disruptive procedure, which helps control potential sources of bleeding.

What are the risks of robotic-assisted surgery?

As with any major surgery performed under general anesthesia, there is a certain amount of risk, including heart attack, stroke and death. Preoperative assessment of a patient’s overall health is part of the standard surgical evaluation at UC Davis Health.

What are the criteria for robotic-assisted surgery?

The decision to surgically treat a patient involves many considerations. Not every patient is an appropriate candidate for robotics or other type of minimally invasive surgical procedure. UC Davis Health surgeons work closely with their patients in discussing options and helping them decide on best treatments.