Robotic Surgery: Applications, Limitations, and Impact on Surgical Education

Bishoy Morris, MBBCH (Hons)

In This Article


Although still in its infancy, robotic surgery is a cutting-edge development in surgery that will have far-reaching implications. While improving precision and dexterity, this emerging technology allows surgeons to perform operations that were traditionally not amenable to minimal access techniques. As a result, the benefits of minimal access surgery may be applicable to a wider range of procedures. Safety has been well established, and many series of cases have reported favorable outcomes. However, randomized, controlled trials comparing robotic-assisted procedures with laparoscopic or open techniques are generally lacking.

Telerobotic surgery stands out as a way of delivering surgical care to patients who have no direct access to a surgeon; however, costs are prohibitive to the spread of such technology to underserved areas that need it most. Even in the United States, surgical robots are mainly available in large academic centers. The issues of cost, technical drawbacks, and clinical effectiveness need to be resolved before robotic procedures can become mainstream, everyday surgical procedures.

New technologies, such as virtual reality, haptics, and telementoring, can powerfully ally with surgical robots to create a new medium for acquisition and assessment of surgical skills through simulation of all operations that can be done via the robot. Performance of robotic procedures requires specialized training. However, the majority of residency programs in the United States do not provide formal training in robotic surgery skills. Students, residents, and residency programs should strive to keep up with this new development in surgical technology that is likely to reshape the way we practice surgery.


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