Advantages of the Robotic Procedure

The da Vinci Surgical System is a robotic surgical device made by Intuitive Surgical of Sunnyvale, Calif. Intuitive Surgical introduced da Vinci in 1999.

With the da Vinci Surgical System, surgeons make three small incisions before inserting three robotic arms into the patient. One arm holds a tiny camera that projects 3-D images onto a monitor in front of the surgeon. The lens system magnifies millimeter-sized arteries and veins 10 times, to the size of drinking straws. The other two arms hold the pencil-sized instruments, which have tiny computerized mechanical "wrists" designed to transmit the dexterity of the surgeon's forearm and wrist into the chest at the operative site.

Seated at a computer console apart from the operating table, the surgeon views a magnified, 3-D image while manipulating the surgical instruments using two joystick-like devices. The system cannot be programmed, nor can it make decisions on its own. The da Vinci system requires that every surgical move be performed with direct input from the surgeon.

Unlike inflexible laparoscopic instruments, the da Vinci moves like human wrists for more dexterity and precision. Patients typically recover faster with less pain than those who have undergone conventional surgery. There is also less scarring and a lower risk of blood loss.

East Carolina University is one of the world's leading training sites for the da Vinci system. ECU is a national Surgical Center of Excellence for Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery. In addition, ECU researchers are working with NASA regarding robotic surgical systems for the space program and are principal investigators for various trials evaluating techniques of robotic mitral valve and coronary artery bypass surgery. ECU is also working with N.C. State University's College of Engineering to develop alternative materials for robotic surgical instruments.

At Vidant Medical Center, surgeons from ECU and private practice use the da Vinci system for heart surgery, prostate surgery, gynecologic surgery and general surgery.