Robotics and future technical developments in pediatric urology

Semin Pediatr Surg. 2021 Aug;30(4):151082. doi: 10.1016/j.sempedsurg.2021.151082. Epub 2021 Jul 14.


Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has represented the main innovation in the field of pediatric surgery and urology over the last 30 years. Pediatric MIS is a wide field, ranging from the standard laparoscopic surgery using 3-mm ports to robotics mainly adopted for pediatric urology indications. The aim of this paper was to summarize the current status of robotic surgery in pediatric urology and to evaluate possible future technical developments for this technique. In pediatric urology, many procedures are challenged by the narrow working space available in smaller children, the difficulty to perform complex and long suture lines to repair complex urinary malformations, and the challenge to remove renal or adrenal tumors. The main characteristic of robotic surgery is that the robotic instruments inserted into the abdominal cavity are remotely controlled by the surgeon, who is sitting at a console next to the patient or even far away, avoiding human tremor during complex suturing. Due to the magnification of the operative field view and the six degrees of freedom of the robotic instruments compared to conventional laparoscopic instruments, providing enhanced 3D vision and improved surgeon ergonomics, robot-assisted surgery appears to be beneficial over conventional MIS, especially in complex reconstructive procedures. Currently, there are two robotic systems available on the market and certified for robotic surgery in children: the DaVinci (Intuitive Surgical, since 2001) and Senhance (Transenterix, since 2020). However, almost the totality of papers published in the international literature are focused on robotic procedures using the DaVinci platform. Analyzing the current literature, there is no evidence about the indications where robotics are preferable to conventional MIS approaches. Currently, the main indications of robotic surgery in pediatric urology are: pyeloplasty for ureteropelvic junction obstruction (UPJO), ureteral reimplantation according to Lich Gregoire technique, Mitrofanoff procedure, nephrectomy or partial nephrectomy for oncological indications, removal of renal cysts, bladder neck reconstruction or removal of urinary tract stones. The future developments in this field are certainly represented by intraoperative use of indocyanine green (ICG) fluorescence imaging that permits to have a better vision of vascular anatomy or clearly identify nodes in case of tumors, and by development of 5G technology. The main limitation of robotic surgery today remains the excessive cost of the machine itself and the limited lifespan of robotic instruments. We believe that robotic surgery will surely represent the new field of development in pediatric surgery, but its widespread application will depend on the introduction of new robotic platforms in the market, that will certainly low the costs, and also to the development of smaller size instruments more suitable for pediatric use.

Keywords: ICG fluorescence; Lich Gregoire procedure; Robotic surgery;children; UPJO.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy*
  • Robotic Surgical Procedures*
  • Robotics*
  • Urologic Surgical Procedures
  • Urology*