How are Robotics Used in Pediatric Surgery?

If your child or a child that you care about needs surgery, you may have concerns. How will the child recover? How much pain will they have after surgery? The good news is robotic surgery may be an option.

Robotic surgery, sometimes called robot-assisted surgery, is performed using small tools attached to a robot's arm. This type of surgery can enhance a surgeon's natural abilities and skills. For example, robotic surgery allows for more range of motion than the human hand because the tools are smaller. Robotic surgery also allows the pediatric surgeon to be more precise.

The surgeon controls the robotic arm with a computer. But don't worry, the surgeon is nearby. The surgeon sits at a computer station and directs the movements of the robot. During the procedure, the robot makes small cuts to insert tiny instruments for the procedure into the body. The robot matches the doctor's hand movements to perform the procedure using the small surgical tools.

To help the surgeon see clearly, a thin tube with a camera attached to the end of it (endoscope) allows the surgeon to view high definition images of the child's body as the surgery is taking place. These images are magnified and in 3-D.

One benefit of robotic surgery is that it's minimally invasive. As a result, the cuts are smaller and there is less bleeding. Robotic surgery is appealing for many families because the hospital stays are shorter and children have less scars.
If your child needs surgery, ask if robotic surgery is an option.

Stacy Tanaka, MD, is a pediatric urologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn.