Robotic Surgery – Interview With Dr. Stephen Taylor

Robotic surgery | Pacific Urology | San Francisco Bay AreaNo, your doctor isn’t sitting around playing video games instead of seeing patients. He’s using the da Vinci robotic surgery system, the next generation in urological medicine.

“Since the da Vinci robot came out, it has completely revolutionized the way we do surgery,” of Pacific Urology said. “It has specifically found a niche in urology; it’s as if it was developed just for urologists.”

In urology, the da Vinci robot is commonly used for prostate gland surgeries, to repair the bladder and to examine and repair the kidneys. Taylor, who attends the World Robotic Symposium annually, specializes in using the da Vinci robot for radical prostatectomy, partial nephrectomy and robotic pyeloplasty among other procedures.

“I just returned from the world robotic symposium and they showed people using it for more and more applications,” Taylor said. “As we get more familiar with it, we are helping ever more challenging cases.”

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Use of the da Vinci robot has essentially replaced the open-surgery technique for 99 percent of Pacific Urology patients. This results in a faster recuperation, shorter catheterization times, faster return of good bladder control, more rapid return of normal sexual function, and a quicker resumption of normal life activities.

“Instead of making large incisions to take care of the problem, we now use the robot. There are very few procedures left that require us to make open incisions,” Taylor said.

While often invisible to the naked eye, all human beings have a slight tremor in their hands. While very rare, hand tremors can lead to mistakes in surgery.  “If you look at your hand with just your eyes, you can’t see much of a tremor, but everybody has it, some more than others,” Taylor said. “The da Vinci robot lets you use the robotic hands which have zero tremor. It allows very precise work—more precise than you could possibly do with your own hands.”

A large portion of his practice deals with prostate cancer, Taylor added. Before using the da Vinci robot for prostate cancer surgery, some patients had to have a catheter for months during postoperative healing. Da Vinci has significantly slashed recovery times.  “Surgery with the robot it is so much more precise because we can place our sutures under ten times power magnification. The tissue reconnections are universally watertight and we have very short catheterization times,” Taylor said. “Patients regain their bladder control usually over days or weeks as opposed to months.”

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Other advantages of minimally invasive robotic surgery include smaller incisions, increased surgical precision and little postoperative pain. According to Taylor, this is only the beginning of what robotic technology will accomplish in medicine.  “We have only touched the tip of the iceberg in robotic surgery. It’s going to be amazing!”

Scientists are developing microscopic robots called nanorobots, Taylor said. Controlled remotely from outside the body, nanorobots will work at a cellular level to diagnose disease, perform microsurgery or target-deliver drugs to affected areas of the body.

“We have these devices now, these are not science fiction. It’s just a matter of engineering and working out all the things they will be able to do.”

Watch this da Vinci video to see if you can believe your eyes.