Uncovering the Myths of Robotic Surgery

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Robotic Surgery

Living in the digital age has given us amazing technology we once thought only the Jetsons would enjoy. We have robots that do everything from cleaning the floor to exploring distant planets. We even have some that perform surgeries on patients.


Well, not exactly.

Surgeons have always relied on instruments to perform operations, including the simplest of tools, such as a scalpel for making incisions or forceps for holding tissue. In many ways, the history of surgical advancement is the story of innovation in technique and technology, and the surgical robot is quite simply the most sophisticated surgical tool ever created. That being said, there are a lot of common myths out there.

Myth: The robot does all the work. The surgeon just programs it before leaving the scene.

Truth: Just like any other surgical tool, the robot cannot work alone. Instead it works more like an assistant, giving the surgeon a command console that operates specialized controls and 3-dimensional video visualization. Unlike traditional, minimally-invasive instruments, the robotic instruments also have a wrist mechanism that more closely mirrors the abilities of the human hand–the first and most capable of surgical instruments.

Myth: Robotic surgery isn’t as good as general surgery. It’s just a gimmick.

Truth: While robotic surgery is not recommended for everyone or every surgical need, the list of complex operations being safely performed continues to grow. In addition to allowing the surgeon to have a significantly magnified view of the surgical site, it allows patients to experience shorter hospital stays, less pain, less risk of infection, less blood loss and fewer transfusions, less scarring and a faster return to normal activities.

Myth: Robotic surgery is easy—any surgeon can do it.

Truth: Robotic surgery is not easy and is not a skill that every surgeon has. It requires specialized training in order for the surgeon to master the use of the robot. In fact, a surgeon has to perform between 50 and 350 cases before they can be considered proficient at this technique.

Myth: I can choose robotic surgery no matter what kind of procedure I need.

Truth: It is always best to consult with your surgeon regarding what cases can be approached using this technology. At Our Lady of the Lake, these include gallbladder surgery, hernia surgery, colorectal surgery, pancreatic surgery, esophageal surgery, head and neck surgery, cardiothoracic surgery, pediatric surgery, prostate surgery and bariatric or weight loss surgery. Even in some of these cases, there may be complicating factors that lead your surgeon to recommend an alternative surgical approach. The specific needs of the patient are always considered.

Even the most complex operations can now be performed using robotic technology. Surgical removal of pancreatic cancer is one example. Our Lady of the Lake is home to the only surgical group in the state, and one of very few in the country, to offer and routinely perform resection of pancreatic head cancer otherwise known as “The Whipple Procedure” using robotic technology.

Procedures that were once thought of as only “open” procedures with large painful incisions are now being routinely performed using robotic technology with tiny incisions—often no larger than the width of an ink pen. As a part of our comprehensive general surgery program, robotic surgery is an effective tool that helps us provide the best care possible for our patients.

About Dr. John Tabor

DrTabor Dr. Tabor is a board certified general surgeon who completed his medical school and residency at Louisiana State University Health Science Center in New Orleans. He also completed additional fellowship training in Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery following residency in 2013. He performs the majority of his surgery using robotic technology, with focus on both malignant and benign conditions of the esophagus, stomach, colon, pancreas, gallbladder and the adrenal gland.

For more information on Dr. Tabor or the Surgeon’s Group of Baton Rouge, please call (225) 769-5656.

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