A prostatectomy is a surgical procedure for removing a man’s prostate gland. Its primary use is in treating prostate cancer. Prostatectomies can be conducted by means of open surgery, minimally invasive laparoscopic surgery, or minimally invasive robotic surgery. A robot-assisted prostatectomy is conducted by the medical team using sophisticated tools that replicate human movement and enhance surgical performance.

Some patients who suffer from an enlarged prostate but without evidence of cancer opt for prostate-reduction surgery. This condition is called benign prostatic hypertrophy or BPH. Reducing the prostate’s size can increase urine flow and reduce the discomfort of emptying the bladder. BPH reduction surgery can also be performed with robotic assistance. 

Benefits of Robot-Assisted Surgery

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

Robot-assisted surgery offers the following 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
  • Faster return to normal living. 

How Does Robot-assisted Surgery Work?

At Baptist Health, robot-assisted prostatectomies 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; and a computerized panel from which the surgeon controls the robot and performs the procedure.

A robot-assisted prostatectomy is conducted similarly to laparoscopic and other forms of minimally invasive surgery. The surgeon inserts a camera into the penis – the surgeon’s eyes during the procedure – and other operating instruments for the detachment and removal of the prostate. 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.

Aquablation for BPH

Robot-assisted BPH surgery can be performed by means of aquablation. Baptist Health utilizes the AquaBeam Robotic system, an aquablation technology pioneered by PROCEPT BioRobotics. Aquablation focuses a tiny jet of sterile and unheated saline water on the prostate, which has the effect of removing excess tissue. The saline jet is inserted by the robot through the penis, so no incision is required. The procedure is controlled by the surgeon, who monitors progress with the aid of a cystoscope that is inserted with the jet.

What to Expect with Robot-assisted Surgery

A prostatectomy will take place with you lying on your back. You will be given anesthesia, so that you’ll be unconscious the whole time. The operation will be conducted through the opening of the penis, through which the visual equipment and surgical instruments will be introduced. Because no incisions need to be made in this procedure, whereas with open surgery, this reduces the possibility of infection, lessening post-operative pain, and speeding recovery. Following surgery, a hospital stay of one or two days is common. You will urinate through a catheter until the surgical area heals.

Many patients have concerns about sexual performance following prostate surgery. Though erectile dysfunction following a procedure is common, this often proves temporary. The greater precision of robot-assisted surgery reduces the risk of long-term complications in otherwise healthy men.

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 prostate health, contact your Baptist Health Primary Care provider or Urologist.