Three Reasons Robots Might Not Be Worth It

Since robotic surgery's inception with prostate cancer treatment, many other areas of surgery have been exploring its potential benefits in terms of patient outcomes. These robotic systems are believed to be helping extend the careers of older surgeons, and shorten the learning curve for younger ones. However, the mixed evidence on robotic surgery’s long-term effectiveness cannot be ignored. Consider a few examples:

  1. In a study of 52,000 women undergoing ovary removal, researchers found an intraoperative complication rate of 3.4 percent for robotic surgery compared to only 2.1 percent for laparoscopic surgery.
  2. Surgery complications were higher in robotic cystectomy procedure (2 percent) than laparoscopic (0.9 percent) in a study of 34,900 women.
  3. Researchers analyzing the economic outcomes of robotic surgeries have found varying results. Robotic-assisted cholecystectomies showed similar length of stays when compared to laparoscopic operations. The catch? The cost of the surgery increased by 54 percent and 29 percent in 2010 and 2011, respectively. It should be noted that the study found higher chronic conditions in robotic surgeries.

All in all, hospitals should do a cost-benefit analysis to determine if robotic-assisted surgery is worth it. On one hand, the efficiency of an operation may increase; on the other, complications and costs may rise. Which scenario is more important to your hospital? How would you monitor and analyze robotic versus laparoscopic operations? These are just a few questions that should be asked when considering any emerging technological advances