A doctor guides small robotic arms through several tiny keyhole incisions. This allows for greater range of movement than a doctor's hand.

Reasons for Procedure

Robot-assisted surgery is considered for procedures that:

Performing surgery in this way may result in:

  • Less scarring
  • Reduced recovery times
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less blood loss
  • Reduced ]]>trauma]]> to the body
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Faster recovery

Many types of surgery, including pediatric surgery, can now be done with the assistance of a robot, including:


Possible Complications

Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have robot-assisted surgery, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Damage to neighboring organs or structures
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • Anesthesia-related problems
  • The need to switch to traditional surgical methods (eg, traditional laparoscopic]]> or open surgery)

Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:


What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

Depending on the reason for your surgery, your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG)]]>—a test that records the electrical currents passing through the heart muscle
  • ]]>Chest x-ray]]>
  • ]]>Ultrasound]]>—a test that uses sound waves to visualize the inside of the body
  • ]]>CT scan]]>—a type of x-ray that uses a computer to create images of the inside of the body
  • ]]>MRI scan]]>—a test that uses magnetic fields and radiowaves to create images of the inside of the body

Leading up to the surgery:

  • Talk to your doctor about your medicines. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
  • Take antibiotics if instructed.
  • Follow a special diet if instructed.
  • Shower the night before using antibacterial soap if instructed.
  • Arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital. Also, have someone to help you at home.
  • Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.


Depending on the type of procedure that you have, you may be given:

  • ]]>General anesthesia]]>—blocks pain and keeps you asleep through the surgery.
  • Local anesthesia—just the area that is being operated on is numbed; given as an injection and may also be given with a sedative

Description of the Procedure

Small "Keyhole" Incisions

factsheet image
Small "keyhole" incisions are placed in preparation for a robot-assisted surgical procedure.
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

The doctor will cut several small keyhole openings in the skin near where the surgery will take place. In most cases, a needle will be used to inject carbon dioxide gas into the surgical area. This gas will make it easier for the doctor to see internal structures. Next, the doctor will pass a small camera, called an endoscope, through one of the incisions. The camera will light, magnify, and project an image of the organs onto a video screen. Then robotic arms holding instruments for grasping, cutting, dissecting, and suturing will be inserted through the holes.

While sitting at a console near the operating table, the doctor will look through lenses at a magnified 3D image of the inside of the body. Another doctor will stay by the table to adjust the camera and tools. With joystick-like controls and foot pedals, the doctor will guide the robotic arms and tools. Lastly, the tools will be removed, and stitches or staples will be used to close the area.

How Long Will It Take?

Usually 1-2 hours or less

How Much Will It Hurt?

You will have pain and discomfort during recovery. Your doctor will give you pain medicine. You may also feel bloated or have pain in your shoulder from the gas used during the procedure. This can last up to three days.

Average Hospital Stay

This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay is a few days. Your doctor may choose to keep you longer if you have any problems.

Post-procedure Care

While you are recovering at the hospital, you will:

  • Be encouraged to walk (with help) soon after surgery
  • Receive guidelines on what you should eat and what activities you can do—Depending on your procedure, you should be able to go back to your normal activities in a few weeks.

Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.


Call Your Doctor

After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • Signs of infection, including fever and chills
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from an incision site
  • Cough]]>, shortness of breath, chest pain, or severe nausea or vomiting
  • Pain, burning, urgency, frequency of urination, or persistent bleeding in the urine
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs, or sudden shortness of breath or chest pain
  • Constipation or ]]>diarrhea]]>
  • Other worrisome symptoms
In case of an emergency, CALL 911.