Knee Robotic arm

An Introduction to Robotic Surgery

With the arrival of Dr Zaheer Moonda to the Cape Hip and Knee team and the knowledge that he has adopted robotic technology in Orthopaedics and is establishing a Robotic Arthroplasty unit in the practice, we have taken some time to take a closer look at robotic surgery in this article. Technology is advancing daily, and we would like to advance with it, but it still begs the question: What is robotic surgery and is it better than traditional surgery?

Demystifying the use of robots in surgery

When you hear the term ‘robotic surgery’, what comes to mind? Is it mental images of The Terminator stretching latex gloves over his hands as he gets ready to operate? Is it a picture of a large metal machine with multiple moving parts rolling towards you to make an incision with a scalpel? Or perhaps you think of a small metal gadget the size of an ant getting released in your bloodstream? While Hollywood would like to paint these pictures, you’ll be relieved to learn that robotic surgery is none of these things and is not as ominous as it sounds. It is an incredible technological advancement that can only benefit our patients and us into the future.


“It is an incredible technological advancement that can only benefit our patients and us into the future.”


What is robotic surgery? 

Robotic surgery can also be referred to as robot-assisted surgery. It differs from traditional surgery in that the surgeon uses a robotic system to assist him in the operation. It is important to note that the robot does not replace the surgeon. There is always a human element involved, and the surgeon is still front and centre and in control all the time. In fact, the surgeon is the one guiding the robot so that it mimics his every move. Much like a video game where you can manipulate the controls and make it do what you want it to, the surgeon is always the one making decisions and telling the robot what to do. In this case, instead of the surgeon holding a scalpel or a set of forceps, he is operating the robot. The robot becomes yet another powerful tool in the surgeon’s hands to make him more accurate, precise and enable him to do what possibly cannot be done as efficiently by human hand.


What does Orthopaedic robotic surgery look like?

Each surgery is different, but there are some similarities. Procedures are meticulously planned ahead of time by the surgical team. A 3D model specific to each patient is generated from a pre-operative CT scan. The surgeon first plans his surgery on a computer using the 3D computer-generated model to accurately perform bone cuts and implant placement in a virtual environment. This plan is then fed into the computer controlling a robotic arm. The surgeon controls the robotic arm in the operating theatre, ensuring absolute precision in placing implants and restricting errors outside of the pre-operative plan.


 “It is important to note that the robot does not replace the surgeon.”


What are the advantages of robotic surgery?

Compared to traditional surgery, the use of a robotic system in surgery has been found to lead to greater precision, flexibility and control during the operation. This is because the robotic arm does not have the limitations of a human wrist, so the surgeon has a greater range of motion and dexterity, and surgery can be more delicate, precise and accurate. The surgeon also has a better view – he sees a highly magnified, high-resolution 3D image of the site of operation on a screen.

This type of surgery is also typically minimally invasive, which essentially means it makes smaller incisions than traditional surgery, leaving very little scar tissue behind. This means that the patient can experience less pain, scarring and blood loss, and there is, therefore, a reduced risk of infection, and recovery can be faster too. It is possible that you could experience a shorter stay in hospital and return to everyday life faster.


What are the disadvantages of robotic surgery?

 Any surgery carries risk, and robotic surgery is not an option for everyone. While the risks are similar to any surgery, some disadvantages include the robot’s possible mechanical failure or, depending on the type of surgery and experience of the surgeon, this type of surgery may take a little longer than traditional surgeries and cost more.


“… any patient who is a good candidate for a hip or knee replacement could benefit from the robotic-assisted procedure …”


Surgery is always best discussed in-depth with your doctor before deciding on a specific plan. They can answer any questions and ensure that the treatment route chosen is suited to your needs. That said, any patient who is a good candidate for a hip or knee replacement could benefit from the robotic-assisted procedure, so be sure to bring this up if you would like to explore this as an option.

Through our years of operating, we have always strived to provide the best quality care and treatment to our patients. The introduction of the Robotic Arthroplasty unit in the practice is something we have been eagerly anticipating. We will be adding more information about this service to our website and articles soon and look forward to answering popular questions to assist you in understanding the offering a bit more. In the meantime, please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have or to book a consultation. And don’t forget, if you are a social media fan – we also provide updates on our Facebook page.

An Introduction to Robotic Surgery