da Vinci Robotic Surgery: First Choice of Physicians and Patients

da vinci robotic surgery | Pacific Urology | CA | the da Vinci robotic surgery system in an operating room

The surgical revolution continues

Robotic surgery, a type of minimally invasive surgery (MIS), uses a human-controlled robotic device to perform complex surgical procedures. Robotic surgery, including with the da Vinci robotic surgery system we use at Pacific Urology, is commonly a better course of treatment for patients compared with traditional (open) surgery or MIS laparoscopic procedures. This is because robotic surgery has many benefits over traditional surgery including shorter hospital stay, fewer post-operation complications, reduced pain, shorter recovery time and less risk of infection, blood loss and scarring.

Since the first documented use of robot assisted (robotic) surgery in the late ’80s and the Food and Drug Administration approval of the da Vinci robotic surgery system in 2000, robotic surgery has changed the game forever. Pacific Urology’s Drs. Steven Taylor and Richard Long were recently interviewed for an article about robotic surgery in the John Muir Health newsletter. Here’s what they had to say.

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Dr. Steven Taylor on advances in da Vinci robotic surgery and others

da Vinci robotic surgery | Pacific Urology | CA | Dr. Stephen TaylorDr. Taylor was one of the first physicians to use robotic surgery in Northern California, and primarily uses the technology to treat prostate cancer. Through da Vinci robotic surgery, Dr. Taylor’s patients recover faster, have better urinary control and are still able to have sexual function.

Robotic surgery is now used by almost every single surgical subspecialty. Since the early days of robotic surgery, the robot itself is now much more versatile – it can swing and be maneuvered to literally any area of the body. Fifteen years ago, robotic surgery used to feel like operating with chopsticks, now the robots are more dexterous than our own hands and 10 times more precise.

In the Bay Area we love new tech and gadgets, and each year the robotic surgery technology gets better and better. As often as Apple and Samsung update the resolution of their cell phone cameras, the lenses on robotic systems like da Vinci robotic surgery improve at the same rate. Along with better cameras, smaller robotic arms and more accessory instruments, such as vessel sealers and stapling devices, are developed each year to improve surgical results. New robots have much more flexible and steerable hands, and we can now simply push a button to change the telescope’s angle.

More important than the impressive and innovative technological advancements are the benefits robotic surgery gives to our patients. People who undergo robotic surgery procedures are able to go home in a much shorter time, with less pain and scarring. With robotic surgery, blood transfusions are becoming a thing of the past, and recovery is much less painful – some patients don’t even take pain pills after the procedure.

In 2018, if a condition can be treated with robotic surgery, it should be the first choice.

Dr. Richard Long on robotic surgery

da Vinci robotic surgery | Dr. Richard Long | Pacific Urology | CAAs the vice chief of surgery at the San Ramon Regional Medical Center, Dr. Richard Long is also specialized in minimally invasive robotic surgery. He primarily performs pelvic floor reconstruction surgery and treats patients with urologic cancers.

For patients undergoing cancer treatment, surgery is often a part of the treatment plan. Advancements in robotic surgery allow us to be able to perform complex, life-saving surgeries that are minimally invasive, have faster recovery times and reduced complication rates. My patients often remark on how well they feel after surgery and how fast they are able to get back to their daily activities. In the case of bladder cancer patients where the bladder has to be entirely removed, which is a traditionally very difficult surgery with a tough recovery, the recovery time is cut in half and patients are up and about within days, looking good as new.

As a surgeon for the past 20 plus years, the biggest takeaway for me is that almost every single surgery that I used to do as an open procedure, I can do robotically – including complex cancer surgeries, pelvic floor reconstruction and difficult urinary tract stones.

When looking for a quality robotic surgery program, patients should assess not only the types of surgery that the surgeon performs but also the number of surgeries both the physician and the institution do on a yearly basis. Judging a program on quantity may sound surprising to some, but a high-volume center, like Pacific Urology, not only has experienced surgeons, but experienced robotic operating room staff. This key balance of quality and quantity of robotic surgeries provides the best care a patient can find.

Not all seasoned physicians see the benefit of investing hundreds of hours learning and perfecting robotic surgery. Many of these surgeons perform open surgery with superb success rates – so why learn something new? As experts in the field, we here at Pacific Urology are getting the word out about the extreme benefits to patients who undergo robotic surgery vs. open surgery.

As more educational institutions invest in the robotic surgery systems such as Pacific Urology’s da Vinci robotic surgery system, the majority of surgical residents will enter the medical field with significantly more knowledge and comfort with robotic surgery than their predecessors.

Soon enough, open surgery will become more of a novelty.