Robot-Assisted Thoracic Procedures
by Cynthia M. Johnson, MA
A robot-assisted thoracic surgery is when a doctor guides small robotic arms through tiny incisions to do surgery inside the chest but not on the heart. It allows for greater range of motion than regular surgery.
Reasons for Procedure
This method is used when surgery needs to be precise. Examples of robot-assisted thoracic surgeries are:
The benefits of this type of surgery are:
Problems from robotic-assisted surgeries are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:
Things that may raise the risk of problems are:
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:
General anesthesia will be used. You will be asleep.
Description of the Procedure
You will be connected to a machine that will help you breathe. Several small incisions will be made between the ribs. Tubes may be placed into the side of the chest. They will help drain fluid and check for air leaking. A needle may be used to inject gas into the chest cavity. This will make it easier to see inside the body. A scope with a small camera on the end will be passed through one of the incisions. The camera will display the area on a video screen. Next, robotic arms holding tools will be inserted through the holes.
While sitting nearby, the doctor will use lenses to look at a magnified 3-D image of the inside of the body. Another doctor will adjust the camera and tools. The robotic arms and tools will be guided by the surgeon. When the surgery is done, the tools will be removed. Stitches or staples will be used to close the incisions. Bandages will be used to cover them.
How Long Will It Take?
About 1 to 4 hours. It depends on the type of surgery.
Will It Hurt?
It depends on the surgery, but pain and swelling are common in the first 2 weeks. Medicine and home care can help.
Average Hospital Stay
The usual length of stay is a few days. If you have any problems, you may need to stay longer.
At the Care Center
Right after the procedure, the staff may:
During your stay, staff will take steps to lower your chance of infection, such as:
You can also lower your chance of infection by:
Activities will be limited during recovery. You may need to ask for help with daily activities and delay your return to work. It will take a few weeks to heal.
Call Your Doctor
Call the doctor if you are not getting better or you have:
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
American Thoracic Society
The Society of Thoracic Surgeons
Robotic surgery. The Robotic Surgery Center at NYU Langone Medical Center website. Available at:
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Accessed August 14, 2020.
Robotic thoracic surgery. UCSF Department of Surgery website. Available at: https://surgery.ucsf.edu/conditions--procedures/robotic-thoracic-surgery.aspx. Accessed August 17, 2020.
Last reviewed March 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board James P. Cornell, MD
Last Updated: 8/17/2020
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