What to Know About Robotic-Assisted Surgery

Doctor and patientWhen it comes to surgery for inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), knowledge is power. Surgery is a common treatment in patients with Crohn’s disease, and many patients with ulcerative colitis may eventually require surgery at some point in their IBD journey after trying other treatment options.


Staying informed about surgical options—even if surgery is not part of your immediate treatment plan—helps empower patients to prepare for future procedures.

When possible, opting for minimally invasive surgery (MIS) can be beneficial for patients. One MIS approach is robotic-assisted surgery (RAS). “RAS makes MIS easier for the surgeon, which makes surgery easier for the patient,” said Dr. Samuel Eisenstein, Associate Professor of Surgery, Division of Colon and Rectal Surgery, UC San Diego Health. 

Benefits of Robotic-Assisted Surgery 

From a surgeon’s perspective, RAS offers enhanced visualization thanks to improved camera stability and three-dimensional vision.

“The robotic camera allows us to toggle back and forth quickly between near-infrared fluorescence during the procedure. This can be helpful in identifying perfusion for an anastomosis, but many of us are also using this for tumor and structural identification (for example, finding ureters),” said Dr. Eisenstein.

Instruments used in RAS allow surgeons to perform complex procedures, such as creating an anastomosis, inside instead of outside the abdomen, which is less invasive for the patient.

Dr. Eisenstein explained that creating an anastomosis inside the abdomen is “extremely challenging to perform laparoscopically,” which is why there is widespread adoption using the RAS technique.

Robotic-Assisted Surgery vs. Other Minimally Invasive Approaches

In general, MIS techniques that include RAS are associated with shorter recovery times, less pain, and lower rates of complications such as wound infections compared with open procedures. However, sometimes surgeons need to convert an MIS to an open procedure. 

“Robotic surgery is less likely to be converted to open, so patients are more likely to get an MIS approach,” said Dr. Eisenstein, and with the MIS approach comes the benefits of a shorter recovery and fewer complications.

If you are interested in RAS for an upcoming procedure, Dr. Eisenstein recommended asking the doctor who is referring you to surgery to refer you to a surgeon trained in RAS. 

Surgery and IBD: What to Consider

While MIS techniques like RAS are associated with fewer complications than open procedures, there is always the risk of complications with every surgery. That is why it is important to ask your healthcare team questions about your procedure and how it relates to your unique circumstances. 


To learn more about common surgical procedures for IBD, visit our MyIBD Learning video library


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