Having been trained in both traditional and minimally invasive surgery, and during its evolution I have watched techniques improve drastically in the last decade. I believe – with certain limitations inherent to the medical profession – in the next decade we will see technological growth similar to that in the 1990s in the computer industry.
Surgeons in America have amassed a broad based and widely taught basic skill set that will allow for exponential growth in minimally invasive techniques. Due to dramatic consumer demand and information technology, the biotechnology arena is expanding in leaps and bounds.
Not only are we able to perform more advanced techniques with less pain and scarring, but we are now able to see the benefits long term of these procedures that were not initially clear. Smaller wounds and less tissue damage initially resulted in the obvious shorter hospital stays and downtime, but other benefits that were not initially expected, are also becoming apparent.
We as surgeons have found that procedures that do not require incisions bring lower risks of nerve damage and “minor” complaints such as lymph node associated swelling that were not previously thought of as significant.
Because of the lower side effect profile inherent to minimally invasive surgery, the threshold to operate and stop the disease earlier in its course is often much lower. As more surgery is performed, improved outcomes are expected, and warranted.
As more and more data is tracked with regularity, we are realizing that quality of life is a major factor in patient outcomes, often just as important as the immediate surgical result.
Due to dramatically increased patient knowledge from widely available resources, patients are demanding the most cutting edge care. The educated patient wants more today than ever. The least invasive techniques with minimal scar and downtime, with the same or better result than conventional surgery. They deserve that.
Having been one of these patients in the past year, for a major surgery treated with robotic techniques, I can attest to all of these issues. I sought the best care, and I believe I had a phenomenal result.
The bar has been set at a new level. It is up to us as surgeons to not just deliver this higher level of care, but exceed it, and be able to communicate our techniques, concerns, and results in an effective manner to our new genre of patients. I look forward to not just meeting, but exceeding this standard.