Frequently Asked Questions About Minimally Invasive Surgery

Your questions answered

Q: What is minimally invasive surgery (MIS)?
A: MIS is surgery typically performed through small incisions, or operating ports, rather than large incisions, resulting in potentially shorter recovery times, fewer complications, reduced hospitalization costs and less trauma to the patient. While MIS has become the standard of care for some surgical procedures, MIS has not been adopted for other complex procedures — for example, prostatectomy.

Adventist Health Portland believes MIS adoption has been slowed because surgical procedures that require manipulating fine tissue, such as dissecting and suturing, are more difficult to do in MIS than in open surgery. However, robotic-assisted surgery enables the extension of MIS techniques to new types of complex procedures.

Q: Does the robotic system replace the surgeon?
A: On the contrary, the robotic system enables surgeons to be more precise, advancing their technique and enhancing their capability to perform complex minimally invasive surgery. The system replicates the surgeon's movements in real time — it cannot be programmed to move on its own. It is not able to make decisions, move or perform any surgical maneuver without the surgeon's direct control.

Q: Is a surgeon using the robotic system operating in "virtual reality"?
A: Thanks to a miniature video camera, the surgeon views the actual surgical field where he is operating in real time. The surgeon has a high-resolution, 3D view of the surgical area and never sees a "virtual" image. Surgery is done through tiny incisions using miniature wristed instruments. The system cannot be programmed to perform any maneuver on its own outside of the surgeon's direct, real-time control.

Q: What are the benefits of robotic-assisted surgery compared with traditional methods of surgery?
A: Some of the major benefits experienced by surgeons include greater surgical precision, increased range of motion, improved dexterity and enhanced visualization. Benefits experienced by patients may include a shorter hospital stay, less pain, less risk of infection, less blood loss, fewer transfusions, less scarring, faster recovery and a quicker return to normal daily activities. None of these benefits can be guaranteed, as surgery is necessarily both patient-and procedure-specific.

Q: Is robotic-assisted surgery covered by insurance?
A: Any insurance that covers MIS generally covers our robotic-assisted surgery. This is true for widely held insurance plans like Medicare. It is important to note that coverage will depend on each individual's benefits package.

Q: Has the FDA cleared the da Vinci Surgical System?
A: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has cleared the da Vinci Surgical System for a wide range of procedures. Refer to the FDA Clearance page for specific clearances and representative uses.