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Robotic surgery extends its reach in healthcare, hospital marketing

The Washington Post, July 19, 2011

If robotic surgery is the future of medicine, many in the healthcare industry would like you to know that the future is already here. In 2010, an estimated 220,000 U.S. procedures were assisted by a robotic device called the da Vinci surgical system. Approved by the Food and Drug Administration 11 years ago, da Vinci is the only equipment of its kind on the market, with more than 1,300 systems installed across the country. A surgeon operating the system sits at a console several feet away from the patient, and with the aid of a TV-like 3-D visualizer and joystick-style controls, uses the robot's arms to maneuever instruments through small incisions. It's a major change from traditional, or open, surgery, in which large incisions are made to access various parts of the body. The company that makes the system says it yields less scarring, pain and blood loss, among other benefits. And surgeons say that with its dexterity and precision, the robot's performance may be better than minimally invasive procedures done by human hand.