Robotic Surgery

Robotic surgery is when your surgeon uses a robotic device to do your procedure. The device has a robotic arm that can hold small surgical instruments. Your surgeon moves the robotic arm using controllers and a viewing screen. Robotic surgery doesn’t replace your surgeon. It’s just one of many methods they use.


What is robotic surgery?

Robotic surgery is an approach healthcare providers use for minimally invasive procedures.

The technology consists of three main parts:

  1. Robotic arms that hold tiny instruments.
  2. A high-definition camera that provides enhanced, magnified, 3D views of the surgical area.
  3. A surgical console where your surgeon controls the instruments and the camera’s every move. The controls look similar to joysticks on an arcade game.

Robotic surgery doesn’t replace your surgeon. It’s just one of many methods they use to do procedures. In fact, research shows that robotic surgery offers similar outcomes to laparoscopic surgery.

Do surgeons need specialized training to do robot-assisted surgery?

Surgeons must complete additional, specialized training to do robot-assisted procedures. Some surgeons pursue formal training through minimally invasive and robotic surgery fellowships.


Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

What is robotic surgery most used for?

Many specialists use robot-assisted surgery, including:

Examples of robotic surgery

Some of the most common types of robot-assisted surgeries include:

Procedure Details

What happens during robot-assisted surgery?

The techniques used during robotic surgery are like the ones used during open, traditional surgery. The main difference is how your surgeon accesses the surgical area.

Instead of making one large incision, your surgeon makes a few small incisions. Another difference is that the surgical instruments require less space to do their job. This limits the need to push tissue, muscle and organs aside.

During robotic surgery, your surgeon will:

  1. Make one or more small incisions.
  2. Place ports (thin tubes) through these incisions. The ports are like temporary tunnels for the surgical instruments.
  3. Attach the robotic device to the ports and place instruments through them.
  4. Place a long, thin camera (endoscope) through one of the ports. The camera provides high-definition, 3D images during the procedure.
  5. Control the robotic arm while sitting at a console a few feet away from you.
  6. Do your surgery.
  7. Remove the surgical instruments and ports.
  8. Close your incisions with sutures.


Risks / Benefits

What are the advantages of robotic surgery?

Compared to traditional open surgery, robot-assisted surgery offers benefits like:

  • Less pain during recovery.
  • Lower risk of infection.
  • Reduced blood loss.
  • Shorter hospital stays.
  • Smaller scars.

Robot-assisted surgery offers advantages for your surgeon, too. For example:

  • The robotic arm’s movements have a greater range of motion than a human hand. The arms rotate instruments in tight spaces in ways that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.
  • A sophisticated camera provides magnified, high-definition views of the surgical area.
  • The small incisions and instruments allow surgeons to do the entire operation inside your body.

How successful is robotic surgery?

Robot-assisted surgery currently has an overall success rate of 94% to 100%. Individual success rates depend on what type of procedure you need, your general health and other factors.

What are the disadvantages of robotic surgery?

Robot-assisted surgery is only available in centers that have specially trained surgeons.

Other disadvantages include:

  • Complications that would require your surgeon to “switch” to an open procedure with larger incisions. (An example is scar tissue from a past surgery, which makes robotic surgery more challenging.)
  • Nerve damage and compression.
  • Robotic malfunction, which is extremely rare.


Recovery and Outlook

How long will it take to recover from robotic surgery?

In general, recovery is much shorter compared to traditional surgery. Depending on the procedure type and your overall health, you may:

  • Get out of bed shortly after the anesthesia wears off.
  • Be able to eat within a few hours of surgery.
  • Go home the same day or next day.

Robotic surgery recovery

You’ll receive at-home care instructions specific to the procedure you had. Here are a few general instructions:

  • Take it easy for a few days or however long your surgeon recommends.
  • Resume everyday activities gradually. If you’re not on prescription pain medications, you can start driving when you’re ready.
  • Don’t lift anything heavy until you follow up with your surgeon.
  • Watch for symptoms of infection (like warmth, pus or discoloration) near your incision site.
  • Take medications for pain or constipation.

When To Call the Doctor

When should I call my doctor?

Tell your healthcare provider right away if you notice:

  • Blood-soaked dressings.
  • Fever.
  • Yellowish discharge (pus) from your incision.
  • Pain that doesn’t get better with medication.
  • Blood clot symptoms, like swelling in your groin or lower leg.
  • Nausea or vomiting.

Additional Common Questions

Is robotic surgery better?

Robotic surgery isn’t “better” than other types of surgery. It’s one of many approaches, and surgeons choose it on a case-by-case basis. They’ll consider factors like:

  • The type of surgery you need.
  • Your overall health.
  • Your surgeon’s expertise.
  • Technological limitations.

Is robotic surgery painful?

You’ll be under general anesthesia during your procedure, so you won’t feel anything. How much discomfort you have after surgery depends on a few factors, like which procedure you had and how well your body tolerates pain.

After surgery, it’s normal to have some discomfort. But most people report less bleeding and postoperative pain, and fewer complications compared to traditional surgery.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Robot-assisted surgery might sound like a plot right out of a science fiction novel. But the truth is, this technology has been around since the 1980s. In a changing world where robots are replacing people, you might wonder if this is just another instance. But rest assured, robotic surgery wouldn’t be possible without human hands.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 04/30/2024.

Learn more about our editorial process.

Appointments 216.444.7000