Robotic Surgery: the Impacts of Costs, Access, and Quality

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Robotic Surgery: the impacts of costs, access, and quality

As technology improves, surgical robots are rapidly gaining support among both doctors and patients across America. Today more than 900 hospitals have the da Vinci robot which is double the number in 2007. (Freyer, 2010) Da Vinci robots were first approved by the FDA in 2000 for prostate removal, but now da Vinci robots are used for a variety of other surgical procedures (Freyer, 2010). Robot assisted surgery offers advantages such as smaller incisions, reduced blood loss, less pain and faster healing time (Vijay, 2010), as well as making surgery less demanding for the surgeon. Robotic surgery involves many obvious advantages but the impact of cost, access, and quality must also be examined.

Surgeons are finding that robots are necessary for their hospital to have. “Robotic surgery represents a huge leap over laparoscopic surgery” (Ronning, 2009). Both involve inserting surgical instruments and cameras through small incisions, but da Vinci technology is much more advanced. It provides three-dimensional, high-definition images of the surgical site and uses a sensitive surgical wrist that rotates 540 degrees (Ronning, 2009). A robot’s small arms and 540 degree rotation allows for robots to reach places human hands cannot. This may be a reason robotic technology is growing in pediatric surgeries. “Unaccommodating places are what robot-assisted surgery is all about” (Berlinger,2006). The robot can move through the body freely which is a definite advantage over the human hand. Also human hands are not nearly as stabile as a robot which makes a difference when there is only a small area to work with (Berlinger, 2006). Doctors also prefer robotic surgery because it is less physically demanding and it allows for less people in the operating room. Normally multiple surgeons are needed because a human only has two hands but the da Vinci robots have 4 arms. More and more doctors are using robots during surgery because of its advantages to both them and the patients.

Along with the advantages to the doctors, robots also present advantages to the patient. Robotic surgery is much less invasive than conventional surgery. It allows patients to recover quicker, and return home days before they normally would (Ronning, 2009). “The pain, discomfort, and disability, or other morbidity as a result of surgery is more frequently due to trauma involved in gaining access to the area to perform the intended procedure rather than from the procedure itself” (Mack, 2010). Robots require much smaller incisions to get inside the body, helping to keep the patient in as least post pain as possible. Also studies show that there is significantly less blood loss, and smaller scars which tend to mean less pain during healing (Vijay, 2010). In a study of men who had prostate cancer surgery, the ones done with robots were able to go home from the hospital in two days on average which is one day shorter than the standard-surgery group, and had fewer post-surgery respiratory problems and other short-term complications (Kowalczyk, 2009). However, patients shouldn’t always assume that robotic surgery is safer and better. They need to find doctors who are experienced with working with these robots. The more experience a doctor has will reduce the time of surgery for the patient. Many patients are choosing hospitals based on if they have invested in da Vinci robots because the advantages are so high.

The quality of care from these robots is one of the most important aspects. Clearly, they present many advantages for both the patient and the doctors. Unfortunately, like any other form of surgery there are disadvantages as well. A major disadvantage in the quality of robotic surgery is that surgeons lose the natural feeling of surgery. “Ordinarily, doctors can feel how forcefully they are grabbing tissue, how well they are cutting, how their stitches are holding. With the robot, that is lost”...
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