A hysterectomy — the removal of your uterus — is a major surgical procedure that triggers lasting physical changes. This surgery was traditionally done through an incision in your abdomen.

Technological and medical advances have taken some of the risk out of this surgery by allowing surgeons to remove your uterus through less invasive methods, specifically with a robotic procedure.

In this article, we cover what a robotic-assisted hysterectomy is like and how this procedure compares with a traditional or open hysterectomy.

A robotic-assisted hysterectomy still uses incisions in your abdomen to remove your uterus. But these incisions are much smaller than those used for a traditional abdominal hysterectomy.

Similar to laparoscopic surgeries, a surgeon will make small incisions to insert a tiny flexible camera and other surgical instruments. These incisions are much smaller than an incision made to directly remove your uterus but are still large enough to allow the surgeon to insert tools and detach your uterus.

If possible, your uterus itself is still removed vaginally to further minimize incision sizes and risks of other problems.

There are several types of hysterectomy that may be performed either by traditional or robotic-assisted means. They’re grouped based on how much of your uterus or your reproductive system is removed.

  • Total hysterectomy: A total hysterectomy is the most common type and involves the removal of your complete uterus and cervix.
  • Partial, subtotal, or supracervical hysterectomy: In this procedure, only a portion — usually the upper part — of your uterus is removed. Your cervix remains in place.
  • Radical hysterectomy: A radical hysterectomy involves the removal of your uterus, cervix, the tissue around your cervix, and the upper portion of your vagina.

With any of these hysterectomy types, your fallopian tubes, ovaries, or both may or may not be removed.

Who needs a hysterectomy?

There are several reasons why a healthcare professional may recommend a hysterectomy for you. These include if you have:

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Traditional hysterectomies require the use of large abdominal incisions to remove your uterus.

Robotic-assisted surgeries for procedures such as a hysterectomy aim to reduce your pain, risk of problems, and recovery time by making the surgery as minimally invasive as possible.

Other benefits to this type of surgery can include:

  • less blood loss and scarring
  • shorter hospital stays
  • quicker return to normal activities

A robotic hysterectomy usually takes 3 to 4 hours. While this is longer than the typical 1 to 2 hours a traditional hysterectomy takes, the robotic technique usually results in shorter hospital stays and recovery time.

Overall, the path to your hysterectomy will be about the same, with preoperative tests and imaging to assess your health before surgery. These may include blood tests, a chest X-ray, and an electrocardiogram (CKG).

On the day of your robotic surgery, a few small incisions will be made near your belly button, and robotic tools will be used to cut and possibly remove your uterus instead of one large abdominal incision being used.

There are benefits and risks to each type of hysterectomy, but overall, these surgeries all carry a low mortality risk.

Out of all the hysterectomy methods, though, robotic-assisted hysterectomy is the safest, with a 77.6% survival rate after 5 years compared with 72.5% survival rates with an open hysterectomy.

How accessible is robotic surgery?

The healthcare services that are available where you live play a big role in your chances of having access to robotic surgery. But the use of these methods is increasing each year as the technology and training on these devices become more widespread.

In one 2021 study, researchers found that even traditional laparoscopic hysterectomies decreased from 62% to 29% of all hysterectomies, while robotic procedures increased from 26% to 61%.

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Recovery times are individual to each person and the specific type of hysterectomy performed, but overall, robotic procedures decrease your recovery time, length of your hospital stay, blood loss, and risk of other problems over traditional hysterectomies.

The main driver behind improvements in recovery time and success is the size of the surgical incision. See comparisons below.

The potential risks of a robotic hysterectomy are similar to the other types of hysterectomy, including:

Talk with the surgeon before your procedure about your individual risk of problems. In some cases, a robotic or laparoscopic surgery may need to be changed to an open procedure.

The surgeon can go over your individual risk factors for this scenario.

All things considered — factoring in procedure cost and hospital stay — a robotic hysterectomy is among the most affordable types of hysterectomy.

One study examining direct costs between 2015 and 2017 found that the average direct costs for each procedure were:

  • Robotic hysterectomy: $3,865
  • Abdominal hysterectomy: $4,063
  • Vaginal hysterectomy: $2,791
  • Laparoscopic hysterectomy: $3,818

It’s also important to consider the differences in the length of hospital stays with each procedure, which were:

  • Robotic hysterectomy: 10.7 hours
  • Abdominal hysterectomy: 51.5 hours
  • Vaginal hysterectomy: 20 hours
  • Laparoscopic hysterectomy: 15.5 hours

Many insurance companies and Medicare or Medicaid usually cover a hysterectomy that’s deemed to be medically necessary.

Coverage for elective hysterectomies and coverage for different hysterectomy techniques may vary by insurer. Call your insurance company before your procedure to verify any coverage restrictions or limitations.

What’s the difference between a robotic hysterectomy and a laparoscopic hysterectomy?

In a laparoscopic surgery, the surgeon directly controls the instruments used to complete the procedure. With a robotic technique, the surgeon will sit at a console, controlling a robot that performs the surgery.

Is a robotic hysterectomy considered major surgery?

A robotic hysterectomy is still considered a major surgery due to the fact that an entire organ (your uterus) is being removed.

Has anyone ever died from a robotic hysterectomy?

Death is a risk in any surgery for a variety of reasons. While some deaths have occurred after a robotic hysterectomy, the mortality rate for this procedure is extremely low.