The da Vinci Surgical System: bringing robots into the surgical theatre

Spain’s da Vinci Surgical System is filling the technological gap in the healthcare sector. By developing the techniques and providing the training for using robots in minimally invasive surgeries, the project is improving the quality of surgical interventions, reducing patient recovery times and opening the door to the innovative medicine of tomorrow.

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Almost any intervention that can be performed by laparoscopy or thoracoscopy surgery can be performed using the da Vinci system. © Galo Peralta Fernandez Almost any intervention that can be performed by laparoscopy or thoracoscopy surgery can be performed using the da Vinci system. © Galo Peralta Fernandez

" The da Vinci Surgical System is a reference for education and training for various scientific societies. At the same time, it allows for the development of clinical research, evaluation, new models of learning surgical skills, biomedical engineering, new applications of ICT and virtual reality. "

Galo Peralta Fernandez

Imagine going to the hospital for a minor surgery and meeting your surgeon, who just happens to be a robot. This isn’t science fiction – this is the da Vinci Surgical System.

The EU-funded da Vinci Surgical System has developed a surgical robot that has revolutionised how minimally invasive surgeries are done. It provides surgeons with technologically advanced manual and visual techniques. In tests it has shown to be capable of outperforming unassisted surgeons in an array of laparoscopic surgeries, including delicate and complex operations in the fields of urology, gynaecology, cardiac, paediatric and ophthalmology.

Laparoscopic surgery, or minimally invasive surgery, is a technique in which operations are performed through small incisions in the body.


With robotic equipment in the surgical theatre, major hospitals around the world are reimagining the design and implementation of surgical techniques. As a result, patients are benefiting from less aggressive interventions and a faster road to recovery.

Furthermore, robotic surgeons open the door to the possibility of telecare, or providing medical treatment – including surgical intervention – remotely. With telecare, a doctor in Spain can use a computer to control a robot performing surgery on a patient at a hospital without surgeons trained in specific procedure.

In other words, when robotics and medicine come together, the possibilities are endless.

Training and technique

This transition from manual surgery to surgery via a robot doesn’t happen overnight. All of these innovative developments require a very intensive programme of continuing education and training. This training also must extend well beyond a general training for doctors, surgeons and nurses and include the teaching of surgical techniques developed specifically for use with robots.  

The da Vinci Surgical System project provides this support. With a focus on innovation in surgical techniques and training, the project has two surgical robots available at the Marqués de Valdecilla Teaching Hospital (HUMV) in Spain. With one robot located in the surgical care unit and the other in the Valdecilla Virtual Hospital (HvV), surgeons have the opportunity to adapt their conventional surgery knowledge, experience and skills to the use of a robot, while new surgeons and students have a chance to get hands-on-practice well before they work on an actual human.  

Disrupting the surgical theatre

Almost any intervention that can be performed by laparoscopy or thoracoscopy surgery could possibly be performed using the da Vinci system, according to the project’s researchers. However, it is the most complex of these surgeries — the ones that tend to require an extremely long learning curve for surgeons — that are the main focus of the project. For example, the project has developed training and techniques to be used in neoplasia, bariatric surgery, hepato-biliary-pancreatic surgery, radical prostatectomy, nephrectomy, pelvic floor reconstruction, simple and radical hysterectomy — to name only a few.    

The da Vinci Surgical System aims to fill a technological gap in the healthcare sector. In doing so, it represents a great leap forward in the field of smart specialisation through the use, development and adaptation of available technologies for specific medical needs. 

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “Da Vinci Robot” is EUR 3 689 276, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 1 844 638 through the “Cantabria” Operational Programme for the 2007-2013 programming period.

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