As a whole, abdominal surgeons possess excellent videoendoscopic surgical skills. However, the limitations of laparoscopy - such as reduced range of motion and instrument dexterity and 2-dimensional view of the operative field - have inspired even the most accomplished laparoscopists to investigate the potential of surgical robotics to broaden their application of the minimally invasive surgery paradigm. This review discusses data obtained from articles indexed in the MEDLINE database written in English and mapped to the following key words: "surgical robotics," "robotic surgery," "robotics," "computer-assisted surgery," "da Vinci," "Zeus," "fundoplication," "morbid obesity," "hepatectomy," "pancreatectomy," "small intestine," "splenectomy," "colectomy," "adrenalectomy," and "pediatric surgery." A limited subset of 387 publications was reviewed to determine article relevance to abdominal robotic surgery. Particular emphasis was placed on reports that limited their discussion to human applications and surgical outcomes. Included are comments about the initial 202 robotic abdominal surgery cases performed at Johns Hopkins University Hospital (Baltimore, MD) from August 2000 to January 2004. Surgical robotic systems are being used to apply laparoscopy to the surgical treatment of diseases in virtually every abdominal organ. Procedures demanding superior visualization or requiring complex reconstruction necessitating extensive suturing obtain the greatest benefit from robotics over conventional laparoscopy. Whereas advanced surgical robotic systems offer the promise of a unique combination of advantages over open and conventional laparoscopic approaches, clinical data demonstrating improved outcomes are lacking for robotic surgical applications within the abdomen. Outcomes data for surgical robotics are essential given the exorbitant costs associated with the use of these tools.
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