Hospitals exaggerate benefits of robotic surgery

A review of 400 randomly selected hospital websites found out that many may be overestimating the benefits of using robotic surgery at their facilities--while at the same time ignoring the risks, according to researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore.

The researchers found that about 41 percent of the examined hospital websites described robotic surgery. Among those, 37 percent presented robotic surgery on their homepages, 73 percent used stock images or text provided by the robot manufacturers, and 33 percent linked to a manufacturer's website.

At the same time, statements regarding clinical superiority over conventional surgery were made on 89 percent of websites mentioning robotics--with the most common being less pain (85 percent), shorter recovery (86 percent), less scarring (80 percent), and less blood loss (78 percent).

Another 32 percent made reference to improved cancer outcomes. However, none of the websites mentioned risks, the researchers report in an online study of the Journal for Healthcare Quality.

In the past four years, the use of robotics in gynecological, heart, and prostate surgeries--among various common procedures--has grown 400 percent, according to Marty Makary, MD, MPH, an associate professor of surgery at Johns Hopkins and the study's leader. But many websites, he says, fail to make clear how their facilities or physicians arrived at their conclusion's of the robot's superiority.

"This is a really scary trend," Makary continues. "Hospitals need to be more conscientious of their role as trusted medical advisers and ensure that information provided on their websites represents the best available evidence."

For more details:
- see the Journal for Healthcare Quality abstract
- view the Johns Hopkins announcement

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