By John Lyons, M.D.
Robotic surgery is when a surgeon uses an advanced tool with robotic arms to perform surgery. Although we call the device a “robot,” it’s completely controlled by the surgeon and is not self-sufficient. Robotic surgery is a more advanced surgery than what we call “open surgery,” the traditional surgery we use to make larger incisions.
Treating Cancer With Robotic Surgery
Robotic surgery can be used for any type of surgery. We can perform surgery with the robot to remove any type of cancer, so anyone who has a cancerous tumor that needs to be removed is a candidate for robotic surgery. There are still cases where traditional, open surgery is appropriate—it depends on the tumor’s size and location.
In our surgical group, colon and colorectal cancer removal are probably the most common robotic cancer-related surgeries. We’ve also used robotic surgery to remove prostate, esophageal, liver, pancreatic, and stomach cancers. Using robotic surgery to remove liver, pancreatic, and esophageal cancers is unique to Cancer Center surgeons.
Robotic surgery is becoming more common, but purchasing the da Vinci robot and training surgeons to use it is a big investment, so only a handful of facilities in the state currently offer it.
We are one of the top two centers in Louisiana in terms of using robotic surgery to remove cancer. And we’ve done more advanced robotic surgeries than anyone in the state to remove complex cancers like liver and pancreatic cancer.
Advancements in Robotic Surgery
Major robotic surgery advancements have been in the tiny mechanical hands that the surgeon controls to get into smaller places that would typically require a large incision. The robotic camera also magnifies the area we’re working with to help us see faraway places that may be harder to identify through open incisions. This detailed, enhanced visualization lets us be more precise and accurate during surgery.
Intensive training is required to use a robot for surgery—almost making it an art form. Minimally invasive, or robotic, surgery is a national trend, so most surgeons are trying to use it when and where we can to ensure more accurate procedures and shorter recovery times for patients.
Benefits of Robotic Surgery
When we perform surgery by cutting a smaller area, the incision heals faster. This means patients spend less time in the hospital, can have a shorter recovery time at home, and can return to their normal lives sooner. Another benefit of robotic surgery is having smaller scars.
To learn more about the robotic surgery procedures available at the Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center, please contact us today.
Dr. John M. Lyons, III, a surgical oncologist, serves as chair of the Cancer Center’s Hepatobiliary/Upper GI and the Skin and Soft Tissue Multidisciplinary Care Teams. He was trained at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.