What is Minimally Invasive Surgery?

Minimally invasive surgery (also referred to as laparoscopic surgery) is surgery that is typically performed through small incisions, or operating ports, rather than large incisions (open surgery), resulting in potentially shorter recovery times, fewer complications, reduced hospital costs (due in large part to shorter hospital stays), and reduced trauma to the patient. Despite widespread use in many routine procedures, laparoscopic techniques are limited by the standard video and rigid instruments that make performing delicate or complex surgeries dangerous or impossible to perform.

What is different about robotic-assisted surgery?

The technology available at Bellin Health (the da Vinci Surgical System) allows an experienced surgeon to decrease potential damage to healthy muscle, nerves and tissue even in extremely small surgical fields or in highly complex procedures. The robotic assisted surgeon experiences much greater surgical precision, an increased range of motion, improved dexterity, and improved access to the field. He also maintains enhanced visualization, viewing a high definition, real time, true-to-life 3-D image of the surgical field on the monitor at the console. The specially calibrated robot-like tools help the surgeon maintain precision and responds to the command of the surgeons hands seamlessly, all through incisions that are only 1-2 centimeters in size.

Is the surgeon using the da Vinci Surgical System operating in “virtual reality” or off a video of the surgical field?

Although the surgeon performing the operation is seated at a console a few feet away from the patient, the surgeon views the surgical field with enhanced visibility (due to the nature of the camera and monitoring system) and operates in real time, through tiny incisions, using miniaturized, wristed instruments. At no time does the surgeon see a virtual image or programs/commands the system to perform any maneuver on its own/outside the surgeon’s direct, real time control.

What exactly are the benefits of choosing this method as a patient?

As a patient undergoing robotic-assisted surgery you can expect to experience less pain, faster recovery, reduced time in the hospital and less scarring. Although the technology is expensive, the reduced time in the hospital as well as the decreased risk of (sometimes expensive) complications means robotic-assisted surgery is also more cost effective than other methods.

Will a robot be performing an operation on me?

No. The surgeon's hands are entirely in control of the robotic technology- it functions as an extension of the surgeon’s hands. Allowing complex procedures to be performed as if the hands were inside the body, with increased dexterity, precision, and visibility while giving the benefits of a minimally invasive procedure.

Where will my surgeon be during the procedure?

Rather than standing over the patient, a primary surgeon sits at a console in the operating room. At this console he views an enhanced, true-to-life 3-D image of the surgical field. Using special controllers, the surgeon performs the surgery using hand movements at the console. Using the high definition monitor to view the body cavity as seen through the tiny camera that is displaying real time footage from a small port and operating the robotic system accordingly. Another surgeon is at the patient’s bedside.

What if something breaks or goes wrong?

Although rare, if for any reason the method needs to be abandoned, our surgeons are trained to be able to rapidly and safely remove the robotic equipment and convert to open surgery if necessary.

Will the surgery be faster?

No. Robotic-assisted surgeries actually take longer than traditional open surgery because of the additional time needed to place the instruments and equipment. However, recovery time and hospital stays are typically significantly shorter.

Has the FDA approved the da Vinci Surgical System?

The FDA has cleared the use of the da Vinci Surgical System for a wide range or procedures. The list of specific clearances and uses for the system changes with time, please see the FDA clearance page for updated information. At Bellin, we only perform procedures that have been studied extensively and proven effective and more beneficial than traditional surgery. Surgeons are always developing new applications for the technology, but they are not used on patients until extensive research has been done and the surgeon is highly trained.

Will my insurance cover the procedure?

Da Vinci surgery and all robotic-assisted surgeries are categorized as minimally invasive, therefore if your insurance policy covers minimally invasive surgery it generally covers robotic assisted surgery at the same level. It is important to note that your coverage depends on your individual plan and benefits package, your insurance carrier will be able to give you specifics tailored to your plan. For specifics regarding reimbursement for da Vinci surgeries, or if you’ve been denied coverage, please call the da Vinci reimbursement hotline at 1-888-868-4647 ext. 3128. More information on facility specific pricing and charges is also available by calling the Wisconsin Hospital Information Center at 1-800-231-8340.

How do I know if robotic assisted surgery is a good option for me?

If surgery has been recommended for the condition you need to treat, your health care provider will work with you to go over the specific nature of your own health needs and determine what type of surgery is best. If robotic-assisted surgery is determined as a possibility, you can often expect smaller incisions, less bleeding and fewer complications, meaning a shorter hospital stay and generally a faster recovery time. You’ll also feel less discomfort and pain thanks to the technology’s efficiency and precision. This positive outcome is most likely achieved when coupled with highly skilled and trained surgeons. The surgeon’s level of experience has a direct correlation with reaching the best possible outcome with the least complications. At Bellin, we pride ourselves on the amount of experience our surgeons have in performing robotic-assisted surgery. We have been merging our surgeon’s talents with this technology longer than any other hospital or surgical facility in the area and are also the only hospital in the region whose doctors perform robotic assisted surgery in four major fields, urology, gynecology, general surgery, and thoracic medicine. If you wish to find a physician, schedule an appointment, or if you have any questions regarding robotic-assisted surgery, please call 920-445-7373 and a member of our staff is always available and happy to help you.

What is Single Site Surgery?

Single site surgery is an emerging technology within the realm of robotic-assisted surgery. It is an extension of the existing da Vinci Surgical System that leverages the vision, precision, dexterity and control that the system provides through a single site port. Single site surgery allows very specific surgeries, like gallbladder removal, to occur using a single 2-2.5cm incision that is generally made through the navel. Two specifically optimized single-site da Vinci instruments along with the 8.5 mm 3DHD endoscope, a 5/10mm accessory port and insufflation adapter are crossed within the single site port to allow the surgeon to operate as he would using traditional robotic-assisted techniques. The da Vinci software automatically detects and re-associates the user’s hands with the instruments tips to create intuitive movement using the specialized single site adapted tools.

The result is an even lower rate of major complications, minimal pain, shorter hospital stays, less blood loss and possibility of infection and a virtually scarless surgery. Single site surgery is currently limited to very specific surgical needs, generally those whose operating field is within the abdomen. On a larger scale it serves as an example of continued progress and how da Vinci and Bellin Health are working toward making certain that your health needs are consistently met with the highest standards possible by adopting and adapting new practices as new technology emerges.