March 16, 2009 -- Question: What is a robotic radical prostatectomy, or robot-assisted radical prostatectomy (da Vinci prostatectomy) -- and what are the risks/advantages of this procedure?
Answer: Robotic prostatectomy should really be thought of as fancy laparoscopy because it's really the same principle. During robotic surgery, portals again are placed through the abdomen and the belly is distended with carbon dioxide. And so during standard laparoscopy, straight instruments are put in through these portals, and it's sort of like the doctor operating with chopsticks.
The benefits of robotics is that during robotics an instrument is placed through those portals and they can be flexed and maneuvered in ways that standard laparoscopy simply doesn't allow. They have a lot of degrees of freedom and it's almost like using your wrists or your hand. And so robotics is an advanced laparoscopic technique and it allows doctors to do more sophisticated reconstructive type surgeries in an easier more reproducible manner. And in fact the other advantage is that you have 3D dimensions, because the robotics allows for three-dimensional viewing within the abdomen.