When prostate cancer is primarily limited to the prostate gland itself, surgery is often the recommended treatment if the “watchful waiting” approach is no longer appropriate.
While traditional open surgery is still the better option for some patients, it’s becoming increasingly common for minimally invasive techniques to be used when removing part or all of the prostate gland. One option of this nature is a robotic-assisted prostatectomy.
What is a Robotic-Assisted Prostatectomy?
A robotic-assisted prostatectomy is similar to laparoscopic prostate surgery in that smaller incisions, referred to as keyhole incisions, are made and specialized instruments are used. Robotic surgery also involves the incorporation of advanced robotic technology designed to be minimally invasive and highly precise.
Who is a Good Candidate for This Procedure?
Generally, any man who has a prostate gland that needs to be removed because it has been affected by cancer is a possible candidate for this type of surgery. Patients are typically evaluated to determine if there are underlying health issues that could complicate surgery. You may also be asked to stop taking blood-thinning medications prior to having robotic-assisted prostate gland removal to minimize bleeding risks.
How is Robotic-Assisted Surgery Performed?
Robotic-assisted surgery goes a bit further than laparoscopic surgery, which is performed with direct hand manipulation by the surgeon. A robotic-assisted prostatectomy uses a mechanical arm and wrist to perform surgical movements. But the surgeon is still involved and in control of the procedure.
In fact, the surgeon hand controls the movement and placement of surgical instruments while seated at a specially designed console in the same room where the surgery is being performed. And another doctor is positioned by the patient to confirm that the robotic arm is making the correct movements.
During the procedure, the surgeon will have a very detailed 3-D view of the area where the prostate gland is located. The image displayed can also be adjusted so it’s magnified when there is a need for increased visual clarity. Instruments that allow for a greater range of motion than what’s possible with human hands are used to remove all or part of the prostate gland through small incisions.
The robotic arm remains steady at all times, allowing the surgeon to have precise control over tissue removal. The prostate gland can also be approached from many different angles, which often makes it easier to manipulate the gland in a way that does not affect other structures or nerves in the same area.
Additionally, the robotic arm may be used to remove nearby tissues as a proactive measure to ensure no cancerous tissues are left behind. Patient benefits associated with this approach to prostate gland removal include:
- Shorter hospital stays
- Fewer surgical risks
- Decreased blood loss
- Less scarring
It typically takes about 2-4 hours to perform a robotic-assisted prostatectomy. This is longer than what’s common with some other approaches to full or partial prostate gland removal. However, suitable candidates are more likely to have a shorter recovery period and fewer issues with post-procedure discomfort. Lastly, take comfort in knowing that a prostatectomy performed at the right time often produces positive, long-term results.