I have spent a part of my surgery rotation on the minimally invasive/bariatric surgery unit. I had the fortunate opportunity to participate in surgeries that utilized the Da Vinci surgical system. It was definitely the best thing I’ve witnessed so far in medicine. The technology is, for lack of a better word, so awesome! Once the trocars are put into place, the machine uses laser guidance to dock itself to all of the ports. You then have to insert the camera and the tools that the surgeon requires.
The coolest part for me is that after the device is docked, the doctor un-scrubs and makes his way to a console. He then does the entire operation from that console. The surgeon stares into a screen and uses the hand controls to guide the tools that are placed in the trochars. It reminded me of playing video games except for the fact that the “game” is a surgical repair. One of the benefits I noticed immediately was the ability to operate at better angles. The robot arms had more precise and wider ranges of motion. In addition, the robot arms are extremely steady.
I did some digging and found some downsides to this technology. At the current time, it remains unclear whether the Da Vinci makes sense to use from an economic standpoint. The system is extremely expensive, and there isn’t much evidence to support that it is significantly better than laparoscopic procedures. For instance, a study of nearly 265,000 women found that there was no significant difference between laparoscopic vs robotically guided hysterectomy in terms of complication rates and rates of blood transfusion. As cool as the system is, more data needs to be examined as to whether it’s feasible for hospitals to spend the extra dollar for these machines!