Q: How has advancements in robotic surgery changed or improved the treatment of colorectal cancer?
The minimally invasive approach, also known as laparoscopy, now significantly reduces post-operative pain experienced by patients. It also allows patients to recover and return to normal activity more quickly, and the absence of a large abdominal wound reduces the chances of complications.
The benefits of the laparoscopic approach have been well-demonstrated in medical studies, all of which have shown that cancer outcomes are equal to those of the open technique, despite the smaller incisions. Robotic surgery is an extension of the laparoscopic approach. It harnesses advanced high-definition video optics and robotics technology to provide colorectal surgeons with better visualisation and significantly improved precision and accuracy during dissection.
The dual lens on the laparoscope enhances imaging with a 3-dimensional full HD quality view on the surgeon’s console. Comfortably seated at this console, the surgeon controls the robotic arms on the patient side cart that perform the actual procedure. The robotic instruments are far superior to standard laparoscopic ‘straight’ instruments in that they mimic the human wrist, providing superior access through a full 7 degrees of articulation.
To top it off, motion damping and scaling ensure that the robotic instruments’ movements are tremor-free, highly precise, and far more stable than the human hand. What all this translates into is improved accuracy and precision during surgical dissection, greater safety by reducing the likelihood of damage to vital surrounding structures, less post-operative pain and a quicker recovery and return to work. Lastly, it reduces surgeon fatigue during lengthy procedures.
Contributed by Dr Dean Koh, general and colorectal surgeon at Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, Singapore