What Is Robotic Surgery and How Does It Work?

Robotic surgery is one of the most advanced technologies in healthcare that’s gaining a lot of attention. Today’s robotic surgery uses a camera and semi-invasive surgical tools attached to a robotic arm.

A special-trained surgeon operates the robotic arms using a console during surgical procedures. The console includes a viewing screen that displays a magnified, three-dimensional view of the patient’s surgical site.

Typically, the console is located in the same room as the operating table, allowing the surgeon to perform the surgery seated.

Contrary to popular belief, robotic surgery is not entirely performed by robots. Instead, the surgeon is always in complete control of the robotic arms. The robot only serves as a tool to assist the surgeon.

The History of Robotic Surgery

The idea of using standard hand grips to control manipulators and cameras of different sizes, including sub-miniature ones, was first introduced in Robert Heinlein’s story “Waldo” in August 1942.

The first recorded instance of robotic surgery was in Vancouver. The surgery, an orthopedic surgical procedure, was performed using the Arthrobot on March 12, 1984.

Similar robotic devices, such as a surgical scrub nurse robot that handles operative instruments on voice command and a medical robotic arm, were also developed around the same time.

A year later, the Unimation Puma 200 was utilized to orient a needle for a brain biopsy while under guidance during the neurological procedure. In the late 1980s, Imperial College in London developed PROBOT, used to perform prostatic surgery. The robot’s small size, accuracy, and lack of fatigue for the surgeon were the advantages.

One of the most significant advancements in this period was the da Vinci Surgical System, approved by the FDA in the United States for surgical procedures in 2000. The da Vinci system uses robotic arms to manipulate surgical instruments, enabling surgeons to perform complicated procedures with greater precision and control.

The Versius Surgical Robotic System was developed in 2019 as a competitor to the Da Vinci surgical system. This robotic system is more flexible and versatile than the Da Vinci due to its independent modular arms, which can be set up quickly and easily.

The system is designed to be minor, making it suitable for almost any operating room. It can be used while standing or sitting. Robotic surgical systems have evolved significantly with technological advancements, with new systems boasting high sensors and minimal invasiveness.

How Does Robotic Surgery Work?

Is the phrase “minimally invasive surgery” familiar to you? This method is used for robotically assisted surgery most of the time. What does that mean, though?

It means that surgeons utilize robotic arms to access small incisions and insert tiny tools to execute surgical procedures instead of making a huge incision to expose the surgical site. To guarantee accuracy and precision, the surgeon directs the robotic arms.

How Does Robotic Surgery Work

A thin tube with a camera is placed through tiny incisions or organic holes like the mouth or nose during modern, conventional, minimally invasive procedures like endoscopic surgery. 

The main distinction between traditional non-robotic endoscopic surgery and robotic surgery is that in the former, the surgeon uses a channel to control the tiny instruments directly. When doing robotic surgery, the physician views the surgical site on a computer monitor and manipulates a robotic arm.

Surgeons can usually utilize a computer to provide control signals and steer robotic arms and their end-effectors in computer-controlled systems. AI-assisted operations and remote surgery are made possible by this. As a result, the surgery can be carried out without the surgeon’s actual presence at the facility.

The Key Advantages of Robotic Surgery

Robotic-assisted surgery allows patients to receive advanced medical care with less downtime. This technology provides precise treatment even in hard-to-reach areas. Here are some key benefits of robotic surgery over traditional surgical methods:


Robotic systems provide surgeons with enhanced precision and accuracy. The robotic arms can make more precise movements than human hands, leading to fewer errors and better outcomes, especially in delicate procedures.

Less Invasive

Robotic surgery is typically minimally invasive, involving smaller incisions than traditional open surgery. This results in less trauma to the body, reduced blood loss, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery times for patients.

Greater Range of Motion

Robotic surgical systems enable surgeons to perform complex maneuvers with a greater range of motion than conventional laparoscopic instruments. This can be particularly beneficial in procedures requiring intricate movements in confined spaces.

Reduced Complication

The precision and minimally invasive nature of robotic surgery can lead to reduced rates of complications such as infections, blood loss, and tissue damage, resulting in improved patient safety.

Access to Remote Expertise

Robotic surgery systems can be equipped with telemedicine capabilities, allowing surgeons to collaborate with specialists located remotely. This facilitates knowledge transfer and enables patients in remote areas to access advanced surgical expertise without traveling.

Applications of Robotic Surgery across Medical Fields

Robotic Surgery across Medical Fields

Cardiac Surgery

Robotic surgery has been utilized extensively in the treatment of coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), replacement of the mitral valve (MV), and, to a lesser degree, in the excision of tumors located in the left atrium and the correction of the atrial septal defect (ASD).

Because of this technology’s great MV repair rates, low risk of complications, and limited requirement for coronary reintervention, more and more surgeons are using it.

Compared to patients who had non-robotic heart surgery, those who had robotically assisted cardiac surgery had far shorter hospital stays, fewer problems, and reduced death rates, according to a number of studies.

Urological Surgery

Both fatal and minor urological problems have been managed with robotic technology. Specific uses of robotics are well-established, while others are still at different stages of development.

Robotically aided laparoscopic radical prostatectomy (RALP) and the treatment of localized prostate cancer are the two most common uses of robot-assisted surgery in urology.

The conventional open retropubic technique to radical prostatectomy is being replaced by RALP, which is becoming widely recognized as the gold standard surgical procedure for localized prostate cancer. Currently, robotic assistance is used in the performance of about 80% of prostatectomies in the United States.

Gynecological Surgery

Gynecologists can use robotic devices to dissect lymph nodes conduct myomectomies, and hysterectomies. In 1999, the Cleveland Clinic published the first research on robotic surgery in gynecology.

Robot-assisted surgery (RAS) has simplified the performance of minimally invasive gynecological surgery. Robot-assisted gynecologic surgery may be more time-consuming and be associated with a higher risk of complications, but there is not enough high-quality data to prove this.

In female patients, fibroids, irregular menstrual cycles, endometriosis, ovarian tumors, uterine prolapse, and different malignancies can all be treated using robotic surgery. RAS is already widely used for hysterectomy in the United States and is a good alternative for other gynecological operations.

General Surgery

Because robotic technology allows for less intrusive operations, it has drastically changed the field of general surgery and its subspecialties. Robotic surgery has been adopted by subspecialties such as pancreatic, gastric, bariatric, foregut, and hernia surgery, and a great deal of study has been done to determine its effect on patient outcomes.

In many medical institutes, colon surgeons now do rectal resections using robotic assistance as a routine procedure. The rising success and advantages of robotic surgery, particularly in technically complex procedures, are reflected in its acceptance.

Other general surgery specialties, such as pancreatic surgery, also benefit from robotic help. A low conversion rate and feasibility of robotic-assisted surgery for moderate and oncologic disorders were demonstrated by a study involving 250 robotic pancreatic resections.


Robot-assisted surgery is becoming increasingly popular in various medical specialties, including neurosurgery, orthopedics, colonoscopy, benign prostate surgery, urology, general surgery, respiratory surgery, and cardiac surgery.

Globally, robotic surgery is extensively used as a state-of-the-art surgical procedure method. Because fewer incisions are made during surgery, there is less blood loss and scarring afterward. Patients recover and mend faster from shorter hospital stays. Robotic surgery prioritizes safety by guaranteeing precise and accurate procedures.

It is beneficial for women undergoing procedures like myomectomy, hysterectomy, and pelvic organ prolapse surgery. By addressing numerous medical conditions and lowering the risk of infection, robotic surgery offers a promising alternative to traditional open surgeries, contributing to its rapid adoption and advancement.

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