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Can I Make Robotic Surgery Make Sense in My Practice?

Selber, Jesse C. M.D., M.P.H.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: March 2017 - Volume 139 - Issue 3 - p 781e–792e
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0000000000003151
Special Topics: Technology and Innovations
Video Discussion

Summary: Over the past 10 years, robotic technology has had a significant impact on minimally invasive surgery. Because plastic surgery is rooted in “open” techniques, robotic applications in the specialty have been slow to emerge. That said, robotic technology possesses superhuman precision and high-definition, three-dimensional optics that are promising attributes in the hands of the plastic surgeon. In this article, the author explores three applications in robotic plastic surgery: (1) transoral robotic reconstructive surgery for head and neck reconstruction, permitting complex oropharyngeal reconstruction without dividing the lip or mandible; (2) robotic muscle harvest, permitting minimally invasive harvest of the latissimus dorsi and rectus abdominis muscle; and (3) robotic microanastomoses, extending the capabilities of the human hand in microvascular and microlymphatic surgery. An overview of the concepts, surgical techniques, and indications is provided. Although progress has been made, many barriers remain to adopting this technology in its current state, and these are also discussed. Robotic surgery is just beginning to have an impact on the field of plastic surgery. As this technology continues to advance in and out of the operating room, it will play an increasingly prominent role in our specialty and in our lives.

Supplemental Digital Content is available in the text.Video Discussion By Samuel Lin, M.D., is Available Online for this Article.

Houston, Texas

From The University of Texas, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

Received for publication May 30, 2016; accepted August 15, 2016.

Disclosure:The author has no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this article.

Supplemental digital content is available for this article. Direct URL citations appear in the text; simply type the URL address into any Web browser to access this content. Clickable links to the material are provided in the HTML text of this article on the Journal’s website (

A Video Discussion by Samuel Lin, M.D., accompanies this article. Go to and click on “Video Discussions” in the “Videos” tab to watch.

Jesse C. Selber, M.D., M.P.H., The University of Texas, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, 1400 Pressler Street, Unit 1488, Houston, Texas 77006,

©2017American Society of Plastic Surgeons