Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital
New Brunswick • Somerset

Robotic Surgery: A Revolution in Surgical Care

June 24, 2010
By Dr. Anthony Catanese

During the past few decades, we’ve seen tremendous changes in the field of surgery. Advances in medical technologies and techniques have revolutionized many types of surgical procedures, improving precision, requiring only small incisions, reducing blood loss and enhancing surgical outcomes. Some procedures that once meant a week’s stay in the hospital now have patients going home the same day. Patients report less pain and are returning back to their normal activities much faster than ever before.
One of the latest breakthroughs in surgery is the use of robotic techniques, which has enabled doctors to perform even complex cases – like removal of the prostate or kidney – using only small incisions. Previously these types of cases, such as certain cancer surgeries, were too difficult to perform using traditional minimally-invasive techniques and required surgeons to open up the abdomen. 
Contrary to its name, robotic surgery does not mean that a robot is performing surgery. Camera scopes are inserted into the abdomen, giving surgeons a high-definition, 3-D view that allows them to see tissues and blood vessels at a level of detail far beyond what is possible with open surgery or laparoscopic surgery. Seated at a console away from the operating table, the surgeon controls the system’s tiny instruments, which have an even greater range of motion than the human hand.
Because only a few small incisions are required, patients have less pain and scarring and fewer complications than those who have had traditional open surgery. Prostate cancer patients return to normal sexual and urological functioning faster, studies show. Hysterectomy patients who underwent robotic-assisted surgery lost half as much blood as those who had laparoscopic surgery in comparative studies. 
There is even more good news for patients: Until recently, robotic surgery was only found at large, academic medical centers. This technology has now become more widely available at smaller, community hospitals.
Somerset Medical Center surgeons began performing robotic surgery with its new daVinci Surgical System in June to successfully remove a patient’s prostate gland. Robotic surgery is also being used at the medical center to treat bladder and kidney disease and will soon be used in the treatment of ovarian, uterine and colorectal cancers.
If you are facing surgery, talk to your doctor about your surgical options and whether robotic surgery or other minimally-invasive techniques may be right for you. 
To learn more about robotic surgery at Somerset Medical Center, visit www.somersetmedicalcenter.com/surgery. For a physician referral, call 800-443-4605.

Dr. Catanese, a board-certified urologist, is chief of surgery at Somerset Medical Center and a member of the Prostate Cancer Institute at Somerset Medical Center’s Steeplechase Cancer Center.