The da Vinci Surgical System – The Means to A Perfectly Accurate and Infection-free Surgical Procedure?

Posted by on Nov 9, 2013 | 6 comments

In the year 2000 the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the use of the da Vinci Surgical System, a multi-armed robotic surgical equipment designed to help surgeons perform surgeries with the greatest ease and accuracy. Though only controlled by a trained surgeon using a console, the capability of the da Vinci in carrying out surgical procedures through minimally invasive approaches has been lauded by a number of surgeons due to the surgical system’s precision, consistency and efficiency in highly delicate procedures in hard-to-reach body parts.

As of this year (2013) more than 2,000 da Vinci Surgical Systems have already been sold worldwide, including in Europe and Japan and the number of surgeries performed (involving prostatectomies, hysterectomies and urologic/ gynecologic) using the unit has already exceeded a million (400,000 in the US). The only drawback other hospitals have from having their own unit is the unit’s high cost, which is more than $1 million; there is a need for, at least, another hundred thousand dollars annually for maintenance.

The da Vinci Surgical System was manufactured by the American company Intuitive Surgical Inc., which has ties with S&P 500 and NASDAQ-100. Though surgeries where the unit is used take about an hour longer, cost of hospital stay is reduced since incisions made by da Vinci are smaller (and, therefore, less painful), requires only some stitches and heals quickly, allowing patients fast recovery.

Despite the training and utmost care during procedures, surgeons who have used the da Vinci Surgical System needed about half a dozen surgeries before getting really comfortable with it. This is because of the need to finally get used to losing that tangible feel of tissues and organs. This multi-armed robotic device has four major components which allow surgeons to effectively perform minimally invasive surgeries where 1cm incisions are precisely made and probability of infection is eliminated. These components include:

  • The Surgeon console, which provides a magnified 3-D image of the surgical area. The surgeon, who is seated a number of feet away from the operating table, operates the instruments in real-time through the console.
  • The Patient-side cart includes the robotic arms which come in direct contact with the patient. In 2003 Intuitive Surgical Inc. added another arm to the device which reduced the need for an operating room nurse by one. Besides the endoscope arm, the device’s other arms handle surgical instruments.
  • The Endowrist instruments, which can be detached to allow switching from one robotic arm to another, using quick-release knobs, include functions like clamping, suturing and tissue manipulation. Attached to the robot’s perfectly steady hands (though replicating the every movement of the surgeon’s wrist, the robotic device is able to totally filter out hand tremors), these instruments allow surgeons to make key-hole or tiny surgical incisions which means minimal loss of blood and almost non-existent scars.
  • The 3-D Vision System allows the surgeon to see everything 10-15 times larger. Images are displayed brightly, clearly and in real time. With fogging and distortions of images eliminated, incisions are made in perfect precision and accuracy.

Cases of deaths (5 were reported last year) and injuries due to surgical robot malfunction have surfaced, it is true. Though, compared to open or traditional surgery, the numbers are very minimal. Many surgeons still maintain that the da Vinci Surgical System, the only robotic system which the FDA has approved for soft-tissue surgery, is the safest and most accurate way of performing minimally invasive surgeries.

6 Comments

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