Dr. Kemp Kernstine, chief of thoracic surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, said robotically assisted surgical procedures, as opposed to traditional open surgeries, allow for small and sometimes miniaturized instruments to maneuver in hard-to-reach internal areas.
Robotically assisted surgery in gynecology is one of the fastest growing specialties, Kernstine said.
The first robot-assisted surgery was performed in 1985. Today's minimally invasive procedures call for the surgeon, instead of directly moving the instruments, to use either a direct manipulator or a computer control to maneuver the instruments precisely.
A manipulator allows the surgeon to perform the normal movements associated with surgery while the robotic arms carry out those movements using "end-effectors" to perform the actual procedure, Kernstine said.
"Some advantages of robotic surgery are precision, smaller incisions, less pain and quicker healing times," Kernstine said in a statement. "The robots we use are not intended to act independently from human surgeons or to replace them. These machines merely act as extensions guided by the movements or inputs of the surgeon."
Medical machines also have been widely used in cardiothoracic cases, in neurosurgery, bariatric and for prostate and other cancers.