Robotic Surgery Q&A with Dr. Wayne Waltzer

In 1985 the first robotic-assisted surgery was performed in Vancouver leading to its introduction to the medical world. Today, more than 750,000 robotic surgeries are performed each year in the United States.

Robotic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure- in simpler terms, this means that smaller incisions, each less than an inch long, are created in order to perform the surgery. Each robot is made up of multiple robotic arms that are completely controlled by the surgeon. One robot arm has a small 3D video camera while the others utilize specialized surgical instruments used to perform the surgery through the small incisions. While the surgeon sits at the robot, viewing the 3D image of inside the body, the surgeon’s hand movements are seamlessly translated thus entirely controlling the robot.

The Department of Urology at Stony Brook Medicine has multiple physicians who perform robotic surgery. Our department is devoted to providing excellent and personalized care for each patient. Our robotic surgeons are well-educated and have solid training and advanced experience using the da Vinci Robot. We continue to research and adapt to the best ideas in medicine to continue providing our patients with the utmost care.

Dr. Wayne Waltzer, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Urology and Director of the Kidney Transplantation Program, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about general and urologic robotic surgery.

Q: What is robotic surgery?

A: Robotic surgery is a minimally invasive surgery that uses a specific instrument, called the da Vinci Robot, to perform the procedure. The Robot consists of multiple robotic arms controlled by the surgeon at a console.

Q: How does it work? 

A: The surgical team starts by inserting trocars, which are “tube like” cylinders, into the area of the body where the surgery is being performed. The trocars hold the tools needed to perform the surgery which are attached to the robot. From there the physician, who has complete control over the robot and the attached instruments begins to perform the procedure while viewing an enhanced 3D image inside the body.

Q: Does the robot control the surgery?

A: No, this is not the same type of robot that cleans the bottom of your pool! The surgeon completely controls the surgery by manipulating and directing the arms of the robot. The physician has the same “degrees of freedom” as wrist motion to precisely control the robotic arms.

Q: What are the benefits of having robotic surgery?

A: Some of the benefits include small incisions, less blood loss, less use of post-operative painkillers, a shorter hospital stay, and quicker recovery.

Q: What are the risks of robotic surgery? Is it safe?

A: Robotics is a safe surgery. Like any other surgery, there are risks, but robotics uses smaller incisions and has a magnified image of inside the body that is 13X the naked eye. This makes it easier to identify bleeding or complications earlier than in traditional surgery. It is important to know, however, that not all surgeries are best performed with the robot. People who have had complex prior surgeries or chemotherapy, radiation, or hernia repair with mesh or muscle flaps may not be ideal candidates.

Q: How long is the recovery time?

A: An average case recovers in the hospital for 1-2 days and can see a full recovery in 2-4 weeks.

Q: What urologic surgeries can be performed with robotic surgery?

A: A high proportion of oncologic cases can now be performed using the robot as well as other cases for benign conditions. These include a radical nephrectomy, partial nephrectomy, radical prostatectomy, radical cystectomy and urinary diversion, treatment of bladder diverticulum, and ureteral reimplantation.

Q: Is it more or less painful than traditional urologic surgery?

A:  Robotic surgery is less painful because the incisions are much smaller.

Q: Why should a patient choose to get urologic robotic surgery done at Stony Brook Medicine?

A: The team we have here at Stony Brook Medicine consists of those who are experienced surgeons and have previously received training at elite institutions.

Q: What is the success rate of robotic surgery?

A: The success rate of robotic surgery is equal to or greater than the success rate of traditional surgery which is still used as the “gold standard” for outcomes.

Q: Are all procedures appropriate for robotic surgery?

A: No, every patient’s situation is unique and should be treated as such. Every procedure, whether traditional or done by using robotics, should be taken on a case-by-case basis.

Q: Is robotic surgery covered by insurance?

A: Yes.



Last Updated