About the Da Vinci Robot

The Da Vinci surgical Robot is a unique surgical system designed to facilitate complex surgical procedures, and has been found predominantly, to be beneficial in performing surgery for prostate cancer.

It is named after Leonardo Da Vinci who drew and designed the first pictures of a robot but also because of his extensive anatomical drawings.


Originally designed for military use it is the first surgical platform that allows a surgeon to operate from a distance i.e. by remote control. Originally designed by a team from Stamford University with backing from NASA, it is now built and sold from the company headquarters in California. This is the only company in the world that makes this type of machine. For approval and safety reasons the surgeon operates the robot from within the operating theatre but could actually be operating it from anywhere in the world. The machine is not a true robot (it does not operate or move by itself), but is a “master slave” unit. This means the surgeon is in complete control throughout the procedure, and controls the instruments at all times.

Although the first robotic operation was done in 2000, uptake was initially slow but now this is the most common way of performing Radical Prostatectomy surgery in the United States. As the Da Vinci Robots are expensive, around 2 million pounds, there has been limited uptake in the UK with only a handful of centres able to offer this unique type of operating. As most centres still offer traditional open surgery, robotic surgery may not be offered locally in your centre, however you can ask your doctor for a referral to discuss it further, to see if this treatment is right for you.

The robot itself consists of three parts, the surgeons console where the surgeon sits and operates the machine, the surgical cart or actual robot, which is attached to the patient where the fine instruments are directed to do their work, and finally the vision stack to provide the optics and 3D camera support.



The surgeon looks into the console and gets a totally immersive, full high definition 3D view of inside the patient. This view is highly magnified so he/she is able to see minute structures (such as nerves) that he may not be able to see with the naked eye, therefore can preserve these, hopefully improving the chances of a better functional outcome. The surgeon has 2 hand controls called masters, and also foot pedals to help control the 4 robotic arms. The robot is able to accurately copy every movement of the surgeons hands and fingers, exhibiting the so called 7 degrees of freedom. The small instruments also have motion scaling so the robot automatically down scales any movements from the surgeons fingers to much smaller movements within the patient, again permitting much finer dissection and making it easier to avoid important structures. The machine also eradicates any hand tremor that the surgeon may have.

What does this mean for the patient?

Robotic surgery is a form of minimally invasive surgery or keyhole surgery. The advantage however is that far more complex operations can be achieved through this keyhole approach as surgeons have improved visualisation, enhanced dexterity and greater precision. The benefits for the patient are numerous, some of the most common advantages are listed below:

  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Less pain
  • Less need for painkillers
  • Less blood loss
  • Lower risk of needing a blood transfusion
  • Faster recovery/return to work or return to normal daily activities
  • Lower complication rate
  • Lower wound infection rate

Conventional Open Surgery Radical Prostatectomy Post-op Patient

da Vinci® System Laparoscopic Radical Prostatectomy Post-op Patient

da Vinci® System Laparoscopic Radical Prostatectomy Post-op Patient

Operating this way is a highly specialised area and it is important to ensure your surgeon has had the appropriate training necessary and is very experienced in using this type of robot.

Additional Viewing

Technology overview of the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System

Surgeon peels grape with the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical system

Precision of Robotic Surgery Origami