Robot-assisted prostate surgery is a relatively new treatment option for prostate cancer. So what do you need to know about this fascinating surgical option?
How Does Robot-Assisted Prostate Surgery Work?
Robot-assisted prostate surgery is done laparoscopically - that is through several tiny holes in the abdomen rather than through a single large incision.
Using these small holes, surgeons insert several different types of thin instruments that are used to perform the surgery. These include a scalpel, a tiny camera, a light and several other tools.
Once the instruments have been inserted through the small holes in the abdomen they are attached to a machine - the "robot." The robot is then guided remotely by the surgeon from a special viewing machine in the operating room.
Why Was Robot-Assisted Surgery Developed?
Robot-assisted surgery was developed because it was thought that, with the increased precision in cutting that a machine could achieve, the prostate could be removed with only minimal damage to any adjacent normal tissues.
With theoretically less damage to adjacent normal tissue, there would also be, theoretically, fewer overall side effects (including things like impotence, urinary incontinence, and pain).
How Well Does Robot-Assisted Prostate Surgery Work?
Most research that has studied how well robot-assisted surgery performs versus standard prostate surgery has not shown a great difference in outcomes between the two treatments. Specifically, it has never been definitively shown that robot-assisted surgery is more or less effective in completely removing prostate cancer or in increasing long-term survival from prostate cancer. Also, it has not definitively been shown to reduce certain side effects like incontinence or erectile dysfunction.
Additionally, because robot-assisted surgery has not been around for a great number of years, there is not a sufficient amount of data to make any strong statements about how men fare in the long term who have undergone robot-assisted surgery versus standard surgery.
Ficarra V, Cavelleri G, Novara M, et al. Evidence from robot-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy: a systematic review. European Urology. 2007.
Mottrie A, Van Migem P, De Naeyer G, et al. Robot-Assisted Laparoscopic Radical Prostatectomy: Oncologic and Functional Results of 184 Cases. European Urology. 2006.