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Robotic surgery to remove your prostate gland

You might have robotic surgery to remove your prostate gland. It's a type of keyhole (laparoscopic) surgery. It is also called da Vinci surgery.

A surgeon does the surgery but uses a special machine (robot) to help. It is not available at all cancer hospitals in the UK but is becoming more common.

You have robotic assisted surgery in an operating theatre under a general anaesthetic. Surgeons need to have special training before they can carry out this type of surgery. It involves 2 machines. The patient unit and the control unit. 

Photograph of Robotic surgery for prostate cancer

The patient unit

You lie on the operating table and the patient unit is beside you. The unit has 4 arms. One arm holds the camera and the others hold the surgical instruments.

The surgeon makes 5 small cuts in your abdomen. The camera and instruments are put in through the cuts to do the surgery. The patient unit is controlled by the control unit.

The control unit

The control unit is where the surgeon sits. It is in the operating theatre with you but is separate from the patient unit.

The surgeon can see the operating area on a screen. This gives the surgeon a 3D view that they can magnify up to 10 to 12 times.

Below the screen are the controls. The surgeon uses these master controls to move the instruments on the patient unit.

This turns any movements the surgeon makes into much smaller movements of the machine. It also reduces any shaking, allowing the surgeon to make very tiny, accurate movements. Cutting and putting in stitches is easier with the robotic assistance. 

Research into robotic surgery

Surgeons only started using these machines in 2000. A systematic review in early 2007 found that it was as good at removing the cancer as other types of surgery.

We don’t yet know how well these men do long term, compared to men having regular prostate cancer surgery.

In the review, robotic surgery had the same advantages as laparoscopic prostate surgery when compared to the standard open operation to remove the prostate gland (radical prostatectomy).

 There was:

  • less bleeding
  • less scarring
  • a shorter stay in hospital
  • quicker recovery

The review also found that if the surgeon was experienced, the operation appears to be as good as the standard radical prostatectomy in removing cancer with a border of healthy tissue (clear margin).

Some studies in the review found that men were more likely to get their bladder control back quickly after this type of surgery.

Last reviewed: 
21 Aug 2019
  • Cancer and principles and practices of oncology (10th edition)
    VT Devita, S Hellman and SA Rosenberg.
    Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, 2015.

  • Prostate cancer: diagnosis and management
    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), 2019

  • Robot-assisted radical prostatectomy vs laparoscopic and open retropubic radical prostatectomy: functional outcomes 18 months after diagnosis from a national cohort study in England
    Julie Nossiter and others 
    British Journal of Cancer, 2018. Vol 118, Pages 489–494

  • Evidence from robot-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy: a systematic review. 
    V Ficarra and others
    European Urology, 2007. Vol 51, Issue 1, Pages 45-55

  • Vattikuti Institute prostatectomy: contemporary technique and analysis of results.
    M Menon and others. 
    European Urology, 2007. Vol 51, Issue 3, Pages 648-657

  • Results of the NPCA Prospective Audit in England and Wales for men diagnosed from 1 April 2016 to 31 March 2017 (published February 2019)
    National Prostate Cancer Audit, 2019

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