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Robotic Prostate Surgery No Better than Non-Robot Surgery

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May 7, 2014 — Choosing whether to have prostate surgery performed with the Da Vinci Surgical Robot or with traditional open surgical techniques is not as important as your choice of surgeon, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Overall, the rate of complications was similar in robot-assisted prostatectomies vs. traditional open surgery. However, robot-assisted surgeries had significantly higher rates of genitourinary complications and miscellaneous complications.

It was unclear whether these risks outweighed the benefits, including fewer blood transfusions, less blood loss, and shorter hospital stays. Despite these benefits, robotic surgery was more expensive than open surgery.

Conclusions were based on data from nearly 6,000 men who had a prostatectomy between October 2008 and December 2009 — 41% performed with open surgery and 59% performed robotically. Both techniques had similar rates of readmission additional cancer therapies.

The authors of the study published an editorial (PDF) to recommend carefully choosing an experienced surgeon:

“Patients considering surgical treatment of their prostate cancer is not to choose a technique, but to choose a surgeon who is an expert at a given technique, to minimize surgical complication risk.”

Researchers concluded that robot-assisted surgery was not superior or safer than open surgery. Even so, other studies have found that robots are used in 85% of all radical prostatectomies in the United States. Many hospitals and the manufacturer of the Da Vinci Surgical Robot promote its potential benefits in comparison to open surgery and traditional laparoscopy.

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