Minimally invasive surgery refers to any surgical procedure that is performed through tiny incisions instead of a large opening. 

In traditional surgical procedures, also called open surgery, one large is cut is made to the body. But, in minimally invasive surgery, the surgeon uses smaller tools, cameras, and lights to perform the surgery through a series of tiny cuts.

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) and robotic surgery some of the minimally invasive surgery techniques used today. These procedures are considered to be safer than open surgery due to the limited size of the incisions made.

What are the major risks associated with open surgery?

  • A large, open wound
  • Rib fractures
  • Fluid build-up in the chest cavity
  • Failure of the lung to expand post-surgery
  • Longer recoveryperiod
  • Increased time in the hospital

 Benefits of minimally-invasive techniques

  • Less blood-loss during surgery
  • Less damage to the skin, muscles, and tissue
  • Shorter, less painful recovery time
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Smaller, less visible scars

How is VATS different from robotic surgery?

While both VATS and robotic surgery using tiny incisions, promise a shorter recovery time as compared to traditional procedures, and reduce the risk of infection and blood loss, there are some key differences in the way these procedures are performed.

Instruments used:both procedures use a camera and small, specialised instruments. Additionally, robotic surgery requires a surgeon’s console and endowrist instruments, which are instruments modelled after a human hand, to provide the surgeon with the required dexterity.

The surgeon: During a VATS procedure, the surgeon is physically present next to the patient, manually operating the instruments, but in robotic surgery, the surgeon operates from a console.

The procedure:In VATS, the surgeon operates using the instruments previously inserted via the incisions.

In robotic surgery, robotic instruments in the body respond real-time to the directions provided by the surgeon.

Dexterity: The surgeon’s range of motion is restricted in VATS, as compared to robotic surgery.

Access to hard-to-reach places: VATS provides better access when compared to traditional methods, but robotic surgery is better at getting to hard-to-reach spots because of its improved dexterity.

Is robotics better than VATS?

VAT surgery teams have been around for longer and hence have more experience. However, there are some advantages of robotic surgery over VATS that cannot be overlooked.

  • The robotic system offers a stable camera platform with better magnification and optimal depth perception that allows for more precise dissections.
  • The robotic instruments that mimic human movements provide a 360-degree freedom of rotation that makes it easier to reach hidden spaces.
  • Robotic instruments can rotate on a fulcrum point. This reduces the pressure on the ribs and injury to the surrounding tissue.
  • Operating from a console allows the surgeon to make smaller and finer movements.
  • Using the robot, the surgeonis able to operate with both hands with equal efficiency.
  • Operating from a console is better for longer procedures as it reduces the fatigue that comes with prolonged standing.
  • After robotic surgery, the patient is able to go home within 2-3 days and return to normal activities sooner as there is lesser trauma felt by the body.