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The da Vinci® Surgical System is a surgical robot developed by Intuitive Surgical. The robot is controlled by a surgeon, rather than acting independently, and it can be used for a variety of procedures. The advantage to using the da Vinci® Surgical System is that patient healing time can be reduced and the risks of infections and some other surgical complications are also limited. There are some distinct disadvantages to the system including the very high cost and the steep learning curve for surgeons training to use the device.
There are several components to the da Vinci® Surgical System. The first is a cart with three to four robotic arms that is positioned next to the operating table. The arms can hold a variety of surgical instruments, including a camera that is used to provide a stereoscopic image of the inside of the surgical site. Each arm is small and capable of very small and highly controlled movements, allowing surgery to be performed through extremely small incisions.
A robotic platform located near the operating table is controlled by the surgeon. The surgeon's head is positioned in a cradle that provides a view of the procedure on screens, while instruments are manipulated with hand and foot controls. The da Vinci® surgical system is designed to scale movements and limit tremors, offering a very high level of control during the surgery and offering more precision than a surgeon can achieve by hand.
The system has been approved for use in a number of types of surgical procedures including gynecological surgery, general surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, and urological surgery. If a patient is a good candidate for a procedure performed with the da Vinci® Surgical System and the patient's surgeon is trained on the system, it may be presented as a treatment option during surgical consultations. Patients may want to ask about prior patient outcomes and the surgeon's level of experience as well as requesting a comparison of the benefits and risks of the different types of surgical procedures available before consenting to surgery performed with this system.
This surgical robot was initially developed to enable long distance surgery. Although that functionality was later abandoned, the potential is still present and the groundwork has been laid to allow surgeons to operate remotely using systems like the da Vinci® Surgical System. This could provide access to advanced surgical techniques in remote areas, including sites like the research stations on Antarctica, where medical care is often limited because it is not possible to maintain a large staff of medical personnel.