Anatomy of the da Vinci Robot: February 24, 2011

It’s been written in newspapers, broadcast on television, and journaled in healthcare magazines across the country and around the world — the da Vinci Robotic Surgical System. “The robot is just an instrument that is connected to our hands, just like any instrument except it’s connected by wires instead of directly to our hands,” explains Dr. Paul DiGiorgi, a cardiothoracic surgeon on the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.

Surgeons, with the assistance of the robot, can perform intricate heart procedures and treat urological cancers. Known for its extreme precision, it’s these fingers that do some of the work. “Unlike any other instrument that we use in the operating room, these instruments have small hands at the end of the instrument which can move in any direction. That allows us to have an incredible amount of dexterity in a very small space that you couldn’t do in any other way.”

A camera is also inserted and records the movements while broadcasting the images to screens stationed around the operating room. But these hands aren’t the only ones doing the work. Seated at this console, the surgeon uses his hands to maneuver the robotic arms. “You don’t feel what’s going on, although you see it in 3d so the increased visualization makes up for the fact that you don’t have a tactile sense,” says Dr. DiGiorgi. “But actually, the more you use the robot, you can see and almost feel through the controls when it’s struggling, if it’s hitting something.”

While surgeons praise the robot for its help in the operating room, patients also benefit as well. Since the procedure is minimally invasive, that means less scarring, less pain, and a quicker recovery.