Costly robotic surgeries no safer than regular procedures

Increasingly troubling news about robotic surgery continues to emerge. This time, a study published recently in the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology finds that robotic cases cost substantially more than laparoscopic cases of hysterectomy, despite no apparent safety benefits.

After identifying women who underwent robotic or laparoscopic surgery for benign disease in 2009 and 2010, and using propensity scores based on in-hospital complications, hospital length of stay, and hospital changes, the study authors have determined that the perioperative outcomes are similar between the two modes of surgery, but that robotic surgery costs close to $2,500 more to a hospital, per patient.

"Unfortunately, the greater costs associated with robotic-assisted hysterectomy were not reflected in improvement in outcomes," the researchers, from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, say, according to Bloomberg.

According to research published last week in the Journal for Healthcare Quality, complications from robotic surgery are widely underreported. Of the roughly 1 million robotics surgeries performed since 2000, only 245 complications (including 71 deaths) were reported to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, according to the study.

In March, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that robotic surgery for hysterectomies should not be a first or even second choice for women undergoing routine procedures, due, in part, to the learning curve associated with the robotic system. That same month, health officials in Massachusetts sent a letter outlining safety concerns about robotic surgery after two damaging incidents involving robots performing hysterectomies.

To learn more:
- read the study abstract