da Vinci S Surgical System

[2015] Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

The doctor who performed my prostatectomy was – like most urologists – originally trained to do the traditional or “open” type of prostate removal surgery. That’s where they make a 4″ to 6” incision in your groin and go in manually to remove your prostate.

Then the da Vinci Surgical System received approval in the U.S. and some doctors got on the robotic bandwagon and some did not. Today they have a choice – they can choose to do it the traditional (open) way or the robotic way.

There’s no doubt in my mind that the robotic method offers certain clear and distinct advantages compared to traditional or open surgery. There’s no argument there. Why? Because less invasive surgery offered by the robotic system usually involves less blood loss, less pain, less scarring, and faster recovery times.

But to tell you the truth, I didn’t really care about all of that. Patients recover from open or traditional surgery too, don’t they? I was far more interested in the procedure that would give me the best chance at the Urological Trifecta and was more than willing to give up faster recovery time and lower blood loss in return for a better long-term outcome or result. What’s a couple of weeks more of recovery time, if I’m going to do better in the long run?

At one of my office visits, I asked my doctor why he prefers to use the robot and not the traditional or open form of surgery to remove prostate glands. He could choose either method, right?  (Yes, right.)  In fact, one of his physician partners still performs RP surgery the “traditional” way, as I’m sure many doctors do.

Now I am in no way pretending to speak for my urologist – this was just a casual conversation and I am not a doctor. I’m sure there are many different answers to this question, both pro and con, and doctors can sometimes “simplify” answers when talking to patients.

I can, however, share with you what his quick, top-of-mind answer was.

There were 2 things he liked about the robotic method (paraphrasing),   a) the better view, the precise close-up view he gets during the operation, together with b) close-in access with the surgical instruments. He said you can see the nerve bundles much better, and you have your instruments right there close to where you are looking and those two things were his quick, top-of-mind reasons for why he prefers the da Vinci robotic alternative when performing radical prostatectomy.

In traditional or open surgery, the doctor usually wears loupes or telephoto-style glasses to get a better view of the operating area. He is standing up and observing the prostate gland and surrounding area through his telephoto glasses.

In da Vinci robotic surgery, the camera is inserted into your abdomen so that it’s right up next to your organs and nerves and tissue. And that camera provides a magnified, 3D, high definition, stereoscopic image of the operating area.

So the bottom line is, my urologist appears to be saying that he can see what he’s doing better and this, logically, should allow for a cleaner and more precise operation.