Colorectal Robotic Surgery Benefits Both Patients & Physicians

BIDMC Contributor

APRIL 01, 2016


At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), robots are playing an important role in helping highly skilled physicians perform complex surgeries. Many of these specialty surgeries were out of the realm of possibility just a few years ago. But today’s robotics have helped make the impossible possible.

Improvements to colorectal surgery are one such example of how BIDMC doctors are coupling their own training and experience with the precision of robotics to profound effect.

“It’s pretty amazing,” says Deborah Nagle, MD, Chief of the Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. “Colorectal robotic surgery has the potential to improve outcomes, decrease recovery time, and help patients continue living the lifestyle that’s important to them.”

Part of BIDMC’s philosophy is using the most advanced tools to help improve outcomes while having the smallest possible impact on a patient’s quality of life.

“We’re using colorectal robotic surgery to perform complex reconstruction of the rectum in ways that just weren’t possible in the past,” says Nagle. “And by having such sophisticated robotics, we’re able to perform these types of reconstructions in situations where other hospitals might perform a colostomy. This helps our patients retain the comfort and quality of life they expect.”

Some of the benefits of colorectal robotic surgery include quicker return of bowel function, the need for less pain medicine, and the potential for faster recovery time.

“One of the great benefits of this surgical tool is that physicians now have better visualization and ease of access in tight spaces such as the pelvis,” says Nagle. “This is important because it helps decrease the likelihood that the surgery will require a long incision — what’s called open procedure — for pelvic surgery. For example, laparoscopic procedures have a conversion to open procedure rate of up to 20 percent. Using the robot, we’re under five percent.”

Nagle sees a great advantage in robotic-assisted surgery. “Yes, because as well thought out as these tools are for a patient’s needs, they’re also ergonomically constructed for physicians, which may ultimately be better for our patients.”

Robotic-assisted surgery is a practical option for a wide range of colorectal conditions, including pelvic surgeries, low rectal resection, sigmoid colectomy, and cancer and non-cancer treatments. Most robotic-assisted surgery uses small incisions, unlike many other options that might require multiple open wounds.

“We’re constantly researching and trialing new processes and techniques to improve outcomes for a wide range of colorectal conditions,” says Nagle. “BIDMC has the broadest depth of robotic surgery in the region. We’ve also integrated this technology into our resident training processes. And as one of the region’s leaders in robotic surgery, we also train other practicing surgeons through CME courses and clinical observerships, as well as run courses for robotic surgery.”

But how are people reacting to robotics as part of their surgery?

“The response is usually very positive,” says Nagle. “And when they learn that robotic-assisted surgery often means less pain and faster recovery time, they like the technology that much more.”

April 2016

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.
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