The Benefits of Single-Incision Robotic Surgery

Following a major surgery, many patients worry about the potential for long-lasting scars on their bodies. Though this largely cosmetic concern may not seem as significant as other post-surgical complications, the emotional and physical pains caused by scarring can be incredibly difficult.
A procedure at Swedish Covenant Hospital is helping to eliminate scarring concerns for patients undergoing gallbladder surgery, as well as some gynecological procedures. Developed by Intuitive Surgical, Inc., the da Vinci Si single-site robotic surgery technology provides patients with an effective surgical option that comes with added cosmetic benefits. 

As the name suggests, Single-Site technology allows surgeons to enter the patient’s body through a single spot, which helps to reduce the number of surgical entry points—and the chances that the patient will develop scars. 

The benefits of the technology extend to both surgeons and patients, according to Dr. Steven Kim, medical director of the robotic surgery program at Swedish Covenant Hospital. “The major benefits for the surgeon are improved visuals and accuracy,” says Dr. Kim. “The patient benefit is that they only need one incision. Single-Site uses a single port through which multiple instruments and a camera can be inserted [into the body].” 

How Single-Site Robotic Surgery Works

Robotic surgery allows surgeons to operate on patients from a remote consol by controlling the movements of surgical instruments from afar. The surgeon is seated in the same operating room as the patient, typically only a few feet away, and operates using real-time images on the console. Robotic surgery cannot be pre-programmed—the expertise and skill of the surgeon is critical in guiding and directing the instruments.

Single-site surgery uses a similar setup, but it allows surgeons to guide flexible instruments through one incision, typically in the belly button. The singular, small and precise incision has been linked to better outcomes for patients through reductions in trauma, blood loss, risk of infection, post-operative pain and average length of time spent in the hospital.

Single-site robotic surgery is not available for all patients or all conditions. It is important to consult with your doctor about your condition, your overall health and available treatment options to ensure that you understand all of the health risks and benefits. 

Benefits to Single-Site Robotic Surgery

For patients who are worried that they will have a scar to remind them of their surgery for life, single-site surgery can help reduce those chances:  “Single-site has a cosmetic appeal for younger patients who don’t want a scar,” says Dr. Spyridon Theodorakis, a robotic surgical specialist at Swedish Covenant Hospital. “Those things really matter to some patients. This way, they can have one incision hidden in the belly button.” 

For surgeons, the technology can help make surgery easier—according to Dr. Theodorakis, robotic surgery can help provide better optics and more advanced movements for surgeons, due to multiple cameras and improved depth perception. 

However, he cautions against the idea that robotic surgery can replace the expertise of a well-trained and experienced surgeon. For example, he rejects the commonly projected notion that robotic surgery is beneficial because it helps to eliminate natural shakiness from a surgeon’s hands. 

“If you have shaky hands, you shouldn’t be doing surgery,” he says simply.

To learn more about robotic surgery and Single-Site procedures at Swedish Covenant Hospital, please visit

By Nicole Joseph

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