Robotic Prostate Surgery - What You Need to Know
by: Brandon Cornett
Forbes, Science Daily, ABC News. It seems everyone is talking about the da Vinci robot lately. No, the robot has nothing to do with science fiction or the Italian Renaissance. It has to do with prostate cancer and the increasingly popular robotic prostatectomy.
About Prostate Cancer
In the United States alone, prostate cancer affects a quarter of a million men each year. The prostate exam is practically a right of passage for men entering their 40's. The most common treatment for prostate cancer is removal of the prostate (a.k.a., the prostatectomy).
Over the years, laparoscopic techniques have been applied to all kinds of surgery. In general, laparoscopic or "minimally invasive" surgeries require less recovery time than open surgeries (mainly because the incisions are smaller, and the entry and exit process is less damaging). When you see a medical program on TV where the doctor is inserting slender cameras and tools into tiny incisions, you're seeing laparoscopic surgery.
Even with all of its advantages, laparoscopy had a bumpy start with prostate surgery. The first U.S. surgeons to use laparoscopic techniques for prostate surgery found it too difficult. It was hard to teach, hard to perform, and physically exhausting.
The da Vinci Solution
In recent years, a new form of robotic prostate surgery has emerged. It's known as the da Vinci robot, and it solves some of the challenges of robotic prostatectomy (prostate removal). With the da Vinci system, a 3-D camera gives a magnified view inside the patient, while the surgeon operates the robotic arms from a console nearby.
Benefits to Patient
Robotic laparoscopic prostate surgery has several benefits over open surgery. First, the incisions are smaller. Patients treated with the da Vinci robotic system leave the operating room with much smaller incisions than patients who have open surgery. In most cases, this speeds up the discharge time. With da Vinci surgeries, patients often go home the next day and resume normal activities within a week, compared to the six-week average for open surgery.
Benefits to Surgeon
Many doctors who use the da Vinci robotic system appreciate the increased visibility. In an article at Forbes.com (July 27, 2005), Dr. David Samadi said this: "With regular laparoscopy you only have one camera, which gives you a two-dimensional view. You lose one dimension -- depth perception. The 3-D view with the robot is absolutely beautiful."
The da Vinci method is also easier to learn than the earlier attempts at laparoscopic prostatectomy, and it's reported to be much less exhausting for the surgeons performing it.
Questions to Ask
If you are considering robotic prostate surgery over traditional open surgery, you should make the following questions part of your doctor-screening process:
* How long have you been performing prostate surgery in general?
* How long have you been using the da Vinci robot?
* How many of these surgeries do you perform each year?
* What is your overall success rate with robotic surgery?
* Are there any unique considerations to robotic surgery as compared to open surgery?
Conduct Your Own Research
This article is not intended to glorify the da Vinci robotic approach to prostate surgery, or to claim that it's perfect. The purpose of this article is to give you a solid foundation of knowledge upon which you may conduct your own research. For this reason, I've provided a link below to an excellent information source.
If you are considering robotic prostate surgery and would like to learn more about it, I recommend contacting the specialists at the Urology Team in Austin, Texas. You can also learn more about this and related subjects by visiting http://www.urologyteam.com or http://www.prostatecenterofaustin.com
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