Prostate Cancer

What is robotic surgery?

September 28, 2020 Word for Word Media 0Comment

Dr Hugo Van Der Merwe simplifies the process of robotic surgery for our understanding.

Robotic surgery is an enabling technology that allows a surgeon to perform more patient-friendly surgery. Currently there is only one commercially available robotic system called the Da Vinci Robotic System.

How does it work?

Basically, the surgeon will make (4 – 6) small incisions into the abdomen of the patient. Small ports are then placed through these incisions into the abdominal cavity. The surgeon will then connect, or dock, the robot onto these small ports. Fully-wristed instruments and a high-definition 3D camera are then introduced through these ports. The surgeon will control these instruments from a console and use them to perform the planned surgery.

This enables the surgeon to perform surgery that results in less scarring, less blood loss and greater precision, which allows the patient to be discharged from hospital earlier and recover to his daily life in a shorter time frame.

The robotic system consists of three carts:

  • The surgeon console: the part of the robot the surgeon performs the surgery from.
  • The patient side-cart: the part of the robot that is connected to the patient.
  • The vision cart: the part of the robot used by the scrub nurse and surgical assistant.

It’s important to note that the robotic surgical system is a system that allows the surgeon to make precise, delicate movements while controlling the machine.

The robot is never ever making decisions or performing incisions. Rather, the surgeon is telling the robot what to do, and the robot allows for greater precision than the human hand.

The robotic system cannot think on its own. It only responds to the surgeon’s precise hand and finger movements. The surgeon is in the operating room, directing the procedure the entire time.

The benefits for patients are smaller incisions, much less pain, less discomfort, less blood loss, a shorter hospital stay and a quicker return to everyday life.

Prostate surgery

Surgery to treat prostate cancer has always been challenging due to the position of the prostate in the pelvis as well as numerous delicate nerves surrounding the prostate. These nerves are important for bladder control and for potency in men. Furthermore, the prostate also has a rich blood supply and if damaged, can cause major bleeding during the operation.

Da Vinci system

Since the introduction of the Da Vinci system in 1999, more than six million prostate surgeries have been performed using the system across the world, with over six thousand robotic units having been installed.

The Urology Hospital in Pretoria was the first facility to obtain a robotic system in South Africa in 2013. Currently there are six robotic systems functioning in South Africa and at the time of this publication more than 5500 cases have been performed in South Africa, of which approximately 50% have been done at The Urology Hospital.

Dr van der Merwe Headshot

MEET THE EXPERT – Dr Hugo A Van Der Merwe

Dr Hugo A Van Der Merwe is a specialist urologist and robotic surgeon at the Urology Hospital in Pretoria. He specialises in general urology in a unit of excellence. He has special interest in urological oncology and reconstruction, robotic surgery, and urological nephrology and renal transplantation surgery.

Address: Room 303, The Urology Hospital, Corner Grosvenor & Pretorius St, Hatfield, Pretoria, 0083

Tel: 012 430 5031 / (012) 430 5723

Urology Hospital Adult Ward 37


You have chosen to have your prostate removed by the robotic surgery technique. This leaflet will tell you what to expect during your hospital stay and answer many questions you may have about your care after leaving hospital.
Click on cover to download your copy!

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