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What's It Like: To have your gallbladder removed — by a robot

Typically when doctors remove your gallbladder, they perform either a laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery or an open gallbladder removal. However, some Oklahoma hospitals now offer a robot-assisted surgery.
by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: March 25, 2012

What happens when you have your gallbladder removed?

Typically when doctors remove your gallbladder, they perform either a laparoscopic gallbladder removal surgery or an open gallbladder removal. However, some Oklahoma hospitals now offer a robot-assisted surgery.

With this approach, doctors use a robot that has pincers. The surgeon controls the pincers from a console. The robot pincers can hold various tools. The surgeon uses the robot to make a cut a few centimeters long in patient's belly button. The robot then inserts medical tools, including a camera, and removes the gallbladder. The camera is 3-D, which can help with visualization and precision.

Why have the surgery?

A doctor might recommend gallbladder surgery if you have gallstones, hard deposits that can range in size from grains of sand to golf balls. Other reasons that doctors might recommend gallbladder removal include lung disease, obesity and pancreatitis.

Not much data is available on whether robot-assisted surgery decreases complications in gallbladder surgeries. Using the robot does increase the surgeon's visibility in the abdomen, and some hope this benefit, along with others, will eventually show a decrease in complications.

One of the main benefits to having the surgery done using the robot is for cosmetic reasons. The only scar left over is generally not noticeable because of the minimally invasive approach the surgeons use.

Hospital representatives say having the robot-assisted surgery doesn't cost the patient more. It is about $5,000 more for the hospital, but the hospital writes that off as an additional cost for using the robot. The machine at OU Medical Center Edmond cost about $1.8 million.

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by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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