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How robots are revolutionizing surgery

Posted at 10:42 AM, Jul 20, 2023

Robots are revolutionizing the way surgeons treat patients and are improving patient outcomes.

Surgery is safer for patients when less of the body is opened up. Small incisions cause less trauma and reduce the risk for infection.

That’s why Intermountain Health has a doctor in charge of getting the most advanced robots in every hospital.

“The surgeon sits at a console way from the patient bed and operates the robot so the surgeon is in control of the robot all the time,” said Dr. Richard Matern.

In recent years we’ve gotten used to the ideal of minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery.

“Laparoscopic instruments are small instruments that go inside and then we're able to operate within the body through very small, small incisions,” Matern explained.

Robots are a step beyond. Where laparoscopic tools would get to a relatively easy and accessible organ to perform simple surgeries, robots maneuver to hard to reach places and can do very precise things.

And it’s beyond the tubes, snippers and balloons many of us think of when it comes to robotic surgery.

“There's a lot of instruments. We have scissors, we have graspers, we can pass monopole or bipolar cautery...It's basically a type of electricity it's passed through so we can cauterize blood vessels and the camera actually has two lenses - one for each eye. So, you're able to get a 3D view and it's magnified up to 10x. So you can really see well, and kind of it's almost like being a little mini person inside the patient,” said Matern.

So, a surgical robot is more like the "Magic School Bus." It allows Ms. Frizzle’s friend Dr. Frazzle to shrink inside the body, then the doctor can use their knowledge and skill without fear that human clumsiness will be a problem.

“It functions basically just like our wrists do, so you have more degrees of freedom to move and get different angles. And there's things that we're doing now on the robot that I wouldn't have dreamed we would be doing just because we're able to tackle tougher cases that otherwise we would have to do open because they were probably too complex to do just laparoscopically,” said Matern.

One example from Dr. Matern’s field of urology. With basic laparoscopy, there weren’t a lot of surgeons who could remove a cancerous prostate. Robots make the procedure easier, which means the safest option is far more available thanks to robotic technology.

“After surgery patients typically have a shorter hospital stay, recovery time, and get home quicker to be with their families and return to normal activities,” said Dr. Matern.

Other advantages of robotic surgery include reduced pain and discomfort with fewer opioid pain medications required, smaller incisions meaning minimal scarring and reduced risk of infection, and reduced blood loss.

Click here for more information, and talk to your surgeon to see if robotic surgery is an option for you.