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Q. What is the da Vinci Surgical System?

A. The da Vinci Surgical System is a tool that utilizes advanced, robotic technologies to assist the surgeon with your operation. It does not act on its own, and the surgeon controls its movements.

The da Vinci Surgical System has a three-dimensional high-definition vision system (3D-HD), special instruments and computer software that allow surgeons to operate with enhanced vision, precision, dexterity and control. The 3D-HD image is highly magnified, so surgeons have a close-up view of the area they are operating on.

The da Vinci instruments have mechanical wrists that bend and rotate to mimic the movements of the human wrist — allowing surgeons to make small, precise movements inside your body. And the system’s software can also minimize the effects of a surgeon’s hand tremors on instrument movements.

Q. What is da Vinci surgery and how can it help me?

A. da Vinci surgery is a less-invasive technique than what is referred to as “open” surgery. With this procedure, the incisions made by the surgeon are much smaller than during open surgery. Therefore, da Vinci surgery is considered “minimally invasive” surgery. Studies of this technique have shown the following benefits in comparison to open surgery:

  • Less blood loss
  • Fewer complications
  • Less need for narcotic pain medicine
  • Less time under anesthesia
  • Smaller incisions associated with minimal scarring

Q. Does the da Vinci Surgical system make the surgeon unnecessary?

A. On the contrary, the da Vinci system is designed to enable surgeons to operate with enhanced vision, precision and control. It translates the surgeon's hand movements into smaller, precise movements of the miniaturized instruments inside the patient's body. The da Vinci system is completely controlled by the surgeon and can never be programmed to make surgical maneuvers on its own.

Q. What is minimally invasive surgery?

A. Minimally invasive surgery — also called laparoscopy or laparoscopic surgery — is used on patients diagnosed with many different conditions. During minimally invasive procedures, surgeons operate through one or more small incisions, depending on the type of surgery. The da Vinci system is used for minimally invasive surgery.

Q: Is da Vinci surgery safe?

A: During the past decade, hundreds of studies have been published on the use of the da Vinci Surgical system demonstrating improved surgical outcomes when compared to open surgery. To date, more than 1.5 million surgeries have been per worldwide using the da Vinci system. Talk with your physician about all treatment options, as well as the risks and benefits of each. If surgery is the option you choose, ask your doctor whether da Vinci surgery is right for you.

Q: Is da Vinci surgery covered by insurance?

A: Surgery with the da Vinci system is a type of minimally invasive surgery. Most insurance plans include da Vinci surgery in their minimally invasive coverage. Major insurance plans — including UnitedHealthcare, Aetna and Blue Cross Blue Shield — cover da Vinci surgery. Check with your insurance provider to confirm coverage.