Robotic Surgery & Kids: 5 Common Questions Answered

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I saw firsthand the exciting promise of robotic surgery during my surgical training. After moving to Austin, I was excited to bring these skills to my patients here in Central Texas as the first robotically trained pediatric surgeon in this region.

Robotic surgery is exciting, especially in children, for the potential benefits it can offer patients—quicker recovery time, smaller scars and less blood loss.

Here are 5 of the most commons questions I get from patient families about this type of surgery.

1. What is robotic surgery?

Robotic surgery is a type of minimally invasive surgery. This means that the surgery is done through tiny incisions using small surgical tools and telescopes. In robotic surgery, a trained surgeon uses small tools attached to a robotic arm allowing for more precise movements.

2. How does it work?

The delicate movements of the robot arms help me get into small areas of the body, which is especially useful for surgery in children. I use my hands to direct the surgery instruments on the robot arms. This allows for extra precision and control, important for achieving the best possible outcomes.

3. What types of procedures use robotic surgery?

Robotic technology is appropriate for a number of complex pediatric urology procedures. The most common include kidney and bladder reconstruction, ureteral re-implantation and ureter reconstruction.

4. What are the benefits?

The biggest benefits of robotic surgery versus open surgery are faster recovery time, less scarring (smaller incisions) and less blood loss. For the procedures listed above and others, robotic surgery has offered similar results as traditional open surgery yet, with the additional benefits just mentioned. But, not every child who needs surgery is a candidate for robotic surgery which is why it is best to talk to a trained robotic surgeon for more information.

5. How long will it take for my child to recover?

Recovery times are different from patient to patient. However, in general, hospitalization and recovery times for patients who have undergone robotic versus an open surgery are much shorter. Children often can return to normal activities within a few days versus several weeks.

Dr. Danielle Sweeney is a board-certified pediatric urologist in Austin, Texas. She was the first pediatric surgeon in the region trained to perform robotic surgeries on pediatric patients.

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