Among the most significant advances in surgery has been the development of laparoscopic—or minimally invasive—procedures. These are new ways to perform many standard operations, with a few, very small incisions, often barely a half-inch long, compared to traditional so-called open surgery with one incision several inches long.

While robots once were thought of as part of a far-off future, the use of robotic and other advanced technology now is part of everyday life. But when it comes to robotic surgery, some people may find it unnerving or intimidating. A surgeon at Baylor College of Medicine describes the basics of robotic surgery and dispels common myths.

Robotic surgery can be used for many types of surgeries, including prostate, gynecologic and cardiothoracic cases. General surgeons are able to do gall bladder surgery, hernia surgery, cancer operations and colon surgery using a robot.

To operate this way, the surgeon inserts a laparoscope, a thin tube with a tiny camera at the tip, through one incision to visualize the area of concern. Images from the camera are seen on a monitor. The surgeon uses them to guide tiny surgical instruments through other incisions and do the operation.

A few small incisions can mean less pain, fewer visible scars, and potentially faster healing. You can often go home the same day and get back to many normal activities sooner. There's also less chance of internal scar tissue, called adhesions, which can be painful.

For the surgeon, one advantage is that the images are magnified on the monitor, making it easier to see organs and tissues. However, laparoscopic procedures can take longer than open surgery, and the longer time under anesthesia may increase the risk of complications, such as internal bleeding or infection, which might take days or weeks to appear.

While many complex surgeries must be done the traditional way, minimally invasive surgery is now routine for many health issues.

Laparoscopic surgery is available for: 

1. Many gynecological and urinary procedures.

2. Hernia repair.

3. Gallbladder removal.

4. Some infertility treatments.

5. Bariatric, prostate and some colon surgeries.

Always check the credentials of your surgeon. While many learned this technique as part of their medical education, more senior surgeons must go for special training to learn it. Always ask how many times the surgeon has performed the procedure you need before you agree to it. Typically, the more, the better.