Learn About Robotic Surgery at Mass General

About the Program

Massachusetts General Hospital is home to the fastest growing robotic, or robot-assisted, surgery program in New England. Our surgeons are board-certified, Harvard Medical School-affiliated physicians who perform some of the highest volumes of robotic-assisted surgery in New England. Research demonstrates that high-volume experience results in improved outcomes for patients.

Surgeons at Mass General utilize robotic surgery to offer patients the most advanced surgical care available. With the help of our robotic surgical system, our surgeons acquire enhanced three-dimensional visuals of the surgical area, more delicate surgical precision and a superior range of motion in hard-to-reach spaces in the human body. Through robotic surgery, your surgeon’s ability to see your body clearly and operate carefully and exactly with a steady, computer-guided tool is greatly enhanced.

In the hands of an expert multidisciplinary care team that includes highly skilled surgeons, anesthesiologists, nurses and assistants, you can feel confident in the care that you and your loved ones receive at Mass General. The robotic surgical system is one tool in our arsenal, as we take a layered and multifaceted team approach to your surgery. For example, our robotic cameras also have infrared capabilities that can be used with fluorescence to ensure pinpoint accuracy. We also can link the robot to advanced ultrasound technologies.

Benefits of Robotic Surgery

Robotic surgery allows doctors to perform minimally invasive surgery—or endoscopy surgery, which is surgery performed through tiny incisions instead of a large opening—for various complex procedures. Compared to open surgical techniques, robotic surgery allows for better precision, flexibility and control and requires less cutting than surgeries performed by hand.

Benefits of robot-assisted surgery include:

  • Smaller, less noticeable incisions and minimal scarring
  • Decreased blood loss during surgery
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Decreased levels of pain and discomfort following surgery
  • A decreased chance of infection following surgery
  • Fewer complications following surgery
  • Quicker recovery

Conditions Treated by Robotic Surgery

Whenever possible, Mass General surgeons will recommend robot-assisted or minimally invasive surgery to treat your condition. To make the final determination, we will take into account your health history, lifestyle and goals for treatment.

Robot-assisted surgery is an option across a wide range of surgical subspecialties, including conditions of the:

  • Lung, esophagus and thymus
  • Abdominal wall
  • Heart
  • Liver, pancreas and biliary system
  • Vagina, cervix, uterus, ovaries and pelvic floor
  • Kidneys, ureter, bladder and prostate
  • Colon and rectum
  • Adrenal

Frequently Asked Questions about Robotic Surgery

Who performs the surgery—the surgeon or the robot?

Although called “robot-assisted surgery,” it is more accurately described as surgery where your highly skilled surgeon is assisted by computerized machines. The surgeon stands at a console in the operating room and controls robotic arms using a delicate system of hand controls, which includes a high-definition, three-dimensional camera and miniaturized tools. The surgeon operates the robotic arms using microscopic, carefully controlled incisions. The robotic camera allows the surgeon to see highly magnified images that have greater resolution and clarity than what can be seen with the naked eye. Your surgeon is in control throughout the entire operation, and simply manipulates the robotic surgical system. A specialized and experienced surgical team will be in the operating room during the entire procedure to provide additional assistance to the surgeon.

Is robotic surgery safe?

Like all surgical procedures, robotic surgery has some risk. Surgeons at Mass General are highly skilled, board-certified, Harvard Medical School-affiliated physicians who are experts in robot-assisted surgery. They mitigate risks by standardizing the operating room procedures and protocols, implementing strict training and credentialing guidelines for all medical staff, and maintaining operating room staff who are proficient with robotic technology and equipment. Mass General does not adopt new surgical tools and technology until those tools have been adequately tested for safety and quality and demonstrate sufficiently positive outcomes in order to meet our high, industry-leading standards for quality care.

What should I expect when I undergo surgery?

As with any other procedure performed at Mass General, with a robot-assisted surgical procedure you can expect to:

  • Be greeted warmly by all members of your care team
  • Review your surgical plan with your surgeon and anesthesia team prior to your procedure
  • Be surrounded by a full, professional care team (anesthesiologist, physician assistant, surgeon, etc.) throughout the procedure
  • Be discharged with smaller, less-noticeable incisions and less pain than a traditional surgery
  • Return home quickly—sooner, in many cases. Your hospital stay will depend on your procedure. Discharge from Mass General can be as quickly as the same day or the following day
What is the difference between minimally invasive surgery and robotic surgery?

Robotic surgery falls under the category of minimally invasive surgery, which refers to any surgical procedure that is performed through tiny incisions instead of a large opening. Other terms for “minimally invasive procedures” include laparoscopy, video thoracoscopy and endoscopy.

One additional benefit of robot-assisted surgery is that it allows for surgeries to be studied and replicated after the fact by the computers. This has led to increase potential for innovation in surgery and collaboration amongst medical professionals.

Is robotic surgery available for all surgeries?

Though an option for many, it is not necessarily available for all. Talk with your doctor today about how it may or may not fit into your plan of care.

Robotic Surgery in Training

We train the next generation of robotic surgeons. Below are a few highlights of how robotic surgery is implemented in training at Mass General:

  • Each of our robotic systems are outfitted with a console dedicated to surgeon and resident training
  • We hold quarterly robotic training labs for our trainees
  • We have dedicated robotic physician assistants who train junior residents and students

Meet Our Team

Mass General has board-certified surgeons with decades of institutional and individual experience.

Robot-assisted Surgery at Mass General

We offer robot-assisted surgery for the below surgical procedures at Mass General. Click each program to learn more about the types of care we provide.

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Thoracic Surgery

Thoracic Surgery

Robotic surgery for conditions affecting the lung, thymus and esophagus.

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Urologic Surgery

Urologic Surgery

Robotic surgery for conditions affecting the genitourinary system.

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Colorectal Surgery

Colorectal Surgery

Robotic surgery for conditions affecting the colon and rectum.

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Hernia Surgery

Hernia Surgery

Robotic surgery for complex hernia repairs.

Oncologic Surgery

Oncologic Surgery

Robotic surgery for conditions affecting the liver, pancreas and biliary system.

Gynecologic Surgery

Gynecologic Surgery

Robotic surgery for treating the vagina, cervix, uterus, ovaries and pelvic floor.

Kidney Transplant Surgery

Kidney Transplant Surgery

Robotic surgery for conditions affecting the kidney that require transplantation.

Cardiac Surgery

Cardiac Surgery

Robotic surgery for conditions affecting the heart.

Endocrine Surgery

Endocrine Surgery

Robotic surgery for conditions affecting the adrenal gland.