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What Is Robotic Surgery?

Robotic surgery may one day render surgical hand tools obsolete.
Robotic arm technology may have medical applications.
Robotic surgery involves surgeons' use of machinery that enhances the precision of certain procedures.
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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 18 December 2014
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Robotic surgery is a kind of surgery that uses robots as an important tool in the surgical process. There are a number of reasons robotic surgery is becoming preferable to surgery that is done by hand for certain procedures and conditions, including that in many cases, the incisions created using robots are smaller than the incisions made by human hands. Furthermore, for surgery that requires exact precision, robotic surgery is also usually preferable to manual surgery. Smaller incisions and increased precision often mean greater success and faster, easier periods of healing. One of the main reasons that robotic surgery can be so useful in medicine is that a robotic arm can often move and make adjustments that are beyond the abilities of the human hands, even the hands of a very skilled surgeon.

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In the brief but rapidly developing history of robotic surgery, there have been quite a few robots and robotic systems used for surgical procedures. Some people believe that this kind of surgery will forever change modern medicine and will only increase in its frequency of use and the ways in which it can be used. There are already many types of surgery that are being altered by the use of robots. Such types of surgery include cardiothoracic surgery, orthopedic surgery, gynecological surgery, and pediatric surgery to name just a few. Robotic surgery is also often used in urology and is regularly used to remove the prostate in cases when the gland has become cancerous.

Although robotic surgery often means that a human doctor does not create incisions or perform any part of the surgery, the procedure is overseen by a doctor. The level of a doctor's involvement varies on a case-by-case basis, especially when it comes to robotic surgeries that are very common. Depending on the robotic system that is being used, the doctor may or may not be in the same room as the patient when the surgery is being performed. As time and technology progresses, the distance at which a doctor can perform a surgery and the doctor's required level of involvement may change.

Most of the technology that goes in to robotic surgery is still quite advanced and expensive. As such, the machines used in this kind of surgery are not available to patients in many areas. Over time, if the technology becomes more commonplace and easier to produce, this may change.

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