Harvard Women's Health Watch

Breakthrough: Robotic surgery

How robots are transforming minimally invasive surgical procedures.

In an operating room at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Dr. Colleen Feltmate performs a hysterectomy on a woman with uterine cancer. As Dr. Feltmate operates, she doesn't stand next to the patient, but in front of a monitor and console. The hands holding the instruments are not her own—they belong to a robot.

Robot-assisted techniques are the next generation in minimally invasive surgery. Surgeons can now perform laparoscopic procedures with the assistance of remotely controlled instruments attached to a robot's arms. At Brigham and Women's (BWH)—and at other hospitals around the country—doctors are using robots to do everything from removing uterine fibroids (myomectomy) to cutting out kidney tumors (radical and partial nephrectomy).

At a time when everyone is clamoring for the newest high-tech gadget, robotic surgery seems like the latest, greatest technique. But do robot-assisted procedures really offer advantages over standard laparoscopic surgery?

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