Robotic surgery is a relatively new technique being performed, and believe it or not it’s been spreading like wildfire. Well, the robots do not actually perform the surgery by themselves…but human controlling robotic arms do performing surgery, taking the place of hands and in some cases steel instruments.
The thinking is that robotic techniques require less training in many circumstances, can be performed with potentially less tissue trauma, and could even be performed remotely. If all this is true, are these robotic techniques more reliable than humans in the OR? A perhaps not so obvious downside is that robotic techniques frequently costs a lot more than a lower-tech approaches, such as the surgeon doing the technique with their hands and usual equipment. So- which is better?
Earlier this year, the Journal of Clinical Oncology did research on women with endometrial cancer to see if there was a decrease in complications when the surgery was done with a robot. Researchers found that there was not a decrease in complications when robotics were involved.
This study did demonstrate that the cost was much higher using the robots, but the bottom line benefit to the patient was no different. Complication rates were even the same.
Thus, the take-home point, at least until there’s more research, is that using robotic surgery for some surgeries doesn’t offer more benefits, but it might cost you more. Ask questions. Challenge assumptions, See the data yourselves.
Image: Victor Habbick / FreeDigitalPhotos.net