Robotic surgery is no better than the alternative, but it is more expensive

Robotic laparoscopic surgery

Robotic surgery might be a growing trend among hospitals around the world, but it isn't any better than conventional approaches, according to new research. Not to mention that robo-procedures are significantly more expensive than the alternatives.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins looked at data from 244,129 colectomies (procedures to remove part of or all of the colon), which can be performed using a minimally-invasive laproscopic technique or using a robot. The study found that both approaches had similar complication and mortality rates, and that patients spent similar amounts of time in the hospital following the procedures. The only major difference was cost, with the robotic surgery running an average of nearly $3,000 more due to expensive disposable parts needed for each procedure.

Complication and mortality rates are essentially the same

This isn't the first time robotic surgeries have faced criticism. The da Vinci system, a multi-armed robot used in thousands of procedures including hysterectomies and prostatectomies, is currently under investigation by the FDA after a spike in reports of mishaps during surgeries. This new study suggests that, although doctors and hospitals are optimistic about robotic techniques, they shouldn't exaggerate the benefits just yet. According to the study's lead author, Dr. Nita Ahuja, doctors and patients should be cautious about believing that anything robotic is automatically better.

"The true test of something new in medicine should be: Is it better? Is it safer? Does it save money?" Ahuja said in a statement. "If not, then we probably shouldn't be using it."

The Verge
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