An appendectomy is a surgical procedure for removing the appendix from the body. The latter is a small, digit-shaped organ attached to the colon’s underside. If the appendix becomes infected, a condition known as appendicitis, it constitutes a medical emergency. The rupture of a diseased organ can spread life-threatening infection throughout the body. The appendix plays a minor role in our immune system, but its loss can be compensated for by other organs. Appendectomies are performed by means of open surgery, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, and minimally invasive robotic surgery.

Who Is a Candidate for a Robot-assisted Appendectomy?

Anyone with appendicitis is a candidate for surgery. In most cases, immediate treatment is called for to avoid potentially serious medical consequences. Appendicitis symptoms include:

  • Severe pain in the lower abdomen or stomach region
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever 

Appendicitis is diagnosed by means of an abdominal ultrasound. If your condition is confirmed, your operation will be scheduled within 24 to 36 hours. Appendectomies are inpatient procedures. You will be given antibiotics as part of your preparation for surgery.

Most appendectomies are now performed as laparoscopic procedures. This includes robot-assisted appendectomies. There are a few exceptions. Mild cases of appendicitis are sometimes treated with antibiotics alone. In unusually complex situations, open surgery may be required.

Benefits of Robotic Surgery

It is important to note that a robotic procedure does not mean being operated on by a machine, rather than a fellow human. Robotic procedures are robot-assisted procedures, where the robot is a group of tools used by a surgeon and his or her medical team to aid in an operation. These tools are called robots because they mimic human motions and movements, sometimes with greater precision than we’re capable of.

A robot-assisted appendectomy is a minimally invasive procedure involving one to three minor incisions. It offers these benefits:

  • Smaller incisions than with open surgery, and therefore less blood loss
  • Reduced scarring
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Decreased post-surgical pain
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Quicker recovery times
  • Fewer post-operative complications
  • Faster return to normal living 

How Does Robot-assisted Appendectomy Work?

At Baptist Health, robot-assisted appendectomies are performed with the aid of the Intuitive da Vinci system. Intuitive is a leading American manufacturer of medical robots and related equipment.

The Intuitive da Vinci system has three parts:

  • a multi-armed robot for inserting cameras and other surgical instruments in the patient
  • a vision cart with endoscopic monitors that provide the surgeon with magnified, real-time images of the surgical site within the body
  • a computerized panel from which the surgeon controls the robot and performs the procedure 

A robotic appendectomy is conducted similarly to laparoscopic and other forms of minimally invasive surgery. The surgeon makes tiny incisions for the insertion of a three-dimensional camera – the surgeon’s eyes during the procedure – and other operating instruments for the detachment and removal of the appendix. However, a robot-assisted procedure has the advantage of greater precision than a human operating alone because robot technology downscales the surgeon’s hand motions to extremely fine movements, reducing the possibility of organ or tissue damage.

Joining the surgeon and the robot in the operating room are the entire surgical team, including the anesthesiologist, the nurses, and a second surgeon or surgical assistant for moving the robot into positions that aren’t mechanically controlled.

What to Expect with Robot-assisted Appendectomy

Discuss the procedure with your physician beforehand, including any medically necessary steps prior to coming to the hospital. You’ll be anesthetized and wholly unconscious during the operation. In most cases, you’ll be able to go home the day after the procedure. If a rupture occurred prior to surgery, you might spend additional time in the hospital, to be treated for the remnants of infection. You will likely experience some abdominal pain, which can usually be managed with over-the-counter medications. Your discomfort will improve with recovery.

A full recovery from surgery typically takes four to six weeks. Your physical activity will be limited for the first two weeks of that period.

Know Your Risk

Baptist Health is committed to being a leading medical provider of robot-assisted diagnosis and surgery in Kentucky and Southern Indiana. If you have questions or concerns about your abdominal health, please contact your Baptist Health Primary Care provider.