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What Is the Difference Between Laparoscopic and Robotic Surgery?

In the past, having surgery meant large incisions, a higher risk of infection, and lengthy recovery times. But advancements in surgical techniques have enabled surgeons to see and fix things inside of your body without the need for invasive approaches. 

Now, thanks to minimally invasive surgery, you can expect to undergo procedures with smaller incisions, less blood loss, less chance of infection, less pain, and quicker recovery times. Plus, you can even have many surgeries with little — if any — hospital stay required.

As a top-ranked surgeon, Scott A. deVilleneuve, MD, specializes in minimally invasive procedures and laparoscopic surgery at Surgical Associates of North Texas in McKinney, Texas. If you need surgery, here’s what you need to know about laparoscopic and robotic-assisted techniques.

How nonrobotic laparoscopic surgery works

This type of minimally invasive surgery has several names, including endoscopic surgery, thoracoscopic surgery, arthroscopic surgery, and “keyhole” surgery. No matter what you call it, this procedure always involves a thin camera (about the size of a Bic pen) called a laparoscope that is used to visualize the inside of whatever body cavity is being operated on.  Small incisions (5mm) are made which allow for insertion of the camera as well as the operating instruments which are used to perform the surgery.  

As an experienced general surgeon, Dr. deVilleneuve performs laparoscopic procedures to treat a variety of problems, including gallbladder issues, hernias, bowel obstructions due to adhesions, and diverticulitis

What is different with robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery

Similar to conventional laparoscopic procedures, robotic surgery also relies on small incisions and high-tech cameras. However, with robotic-assisted surgery, the surgeon is not scrubbed in at the side of the patient, but rather sitting at a separate console in the operating room where they control the laparoscopic instruments via the robot.  This is the biggest difference between these two techniques, as in traditional laparoscopic surgery the surgeon has the instruments in his own hands as opposed to them being attached to the robot, which is then controlled via the console.  This can allow for some greater flexibility and range of movements with the instruments.  

Similar to traditional laparoscopic surgery, robotic-assisted surgery makes use of high-definition, 3-D imaging, which magnifies the surgical site and provides images of what is going on inside your body. During the entire process, you have a surgical team at your side, supervising the robot and your status.

Both conventional laparoscopic and robotic-assisted laparoscopic techniques offer numerous advantages over traditional, open or more invasive procedures. 

What does this mean to you, the patient?

The most common question asked of us about robotic surgery is whether or not the robot is better.  The short answer is “it depends.”  While the robot is being used for a large number and many types of procedures, there are really only a handful of surgeries where using the robot is actually considered an advantage over traditional laparoscopic surgery.  Some examples of procedures that are almost exclusively done using the robot these days are prostate surgery, hysterectomies, lung resections, and Nissen fundoplications.  While the robot is sometimes used for more “routine” surgeries like hernia repairs and gallbladder surgery, there is no clinical benefit in using the robot in these situations, but there is often a greater cost to the patient as very few robotic procedures are done in outpatient surgery centers where costs for surgeries are typically less than at inpatient facilities.  

The most important thing to remember when deciding which type of surgery is best for you is that you are a unique individual, and as such the factors that should be considered are also unique to you.  As such, you should always discuss the different options with the surgeon who will actually be performing your surgery.  Do not rely solely on “Dr Google” or your primary care physician or your friends/family to make your decision, as while they can all be helpful, none of them will have as much knowledge about the procedure you are considering as will the surgeon who will be doing it.  As such, it is very important to find someone you feel comfortable with who can help tailor the surgical technique used to your unique needs. 

If you need surgery and want to see which type of minimally invasive approach is best for you, book an appointment online or over the phone with Surgical Associates of North Texas today.

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