Robot-assisted surgeries may not improve patient outcomes

Patient outcomes for robot-assisted surgical procedures may not be better than surgeries performed the old-fashioned way, a study has found.

The researched, published in the Lancet, followed men scheduled for a prostatectomy, who were divided into two groups: one who had the surgery performed with the assistance of a robot and another group who were given the more traditional version of the procedure. Researchers found that of the 250 men who completed the 12-week study, there was not a significant difference in sexual or urinary function between the two groups.

The study team will continue to monitor the men who participated to see if the results change one or two years after surgery. The team wrote that the results should not convince patients for or against a specific type of procedure, especially as the study is ongoing. “In the interim, we encourage patients to choose an experienced surgeon they trust and with whom they have a rapport, rather than a specific surgical approach,” the team wrote.

Physicians who perform such surgeries see both the pros and cons, according to an article from The Washington Post. Vincent Laudone, M.D., a urologic surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told the newspaper that he sees better during surgeries when he uses robotics instead of magnifying glasses. Furthermore, the technology helps to reduce blood loss and patient length of stay. However, he noted that there is a monopoly in the medical robotics field, which has hampered innovation.

“Even though we are 16 years into this, we haven’t seen the real technological breakthroughs that will come from having other players in the field,” Laudone told The Post. Technical difficulties and complications are also common with such procedures, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

Despite the concerns, robot-assisted surgeries are becoming more and more common. Within the next five years, researchers project that one in three U.S. surgeries will performed using robotic system, more than doubling the current number, according to an article from Reuters. Most top hospitals use them in oncology, gastroenterology, gynecology and urology, according to Reuters.

- read the study
- here’s The Post article
- check out the Reuters story