Over the past few years, there have been high expectations for the application of robots in the surgical field. With about 46.5 million surgeries being performed each year in the U.S., new and inventive methods have been continuously developed to make procedures safer and easier. But a new study has found that the methods of robotic surgery and the methods of traditional open surgery are equally effective.
A seven-year study was conducted across 15 institutions and was led by Dipen J. Parekh, M.D., chair of urology and director of robotic surgery at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. The study focused on treatment of bladder cancer and consisted of 350 patients. Half of the patients received traditional surgery and half received robotic surgery. The outcomes were compared two to three years after the surgeries took place.
“We have done more than 4 million surgeries with the robotic approach since the device came into existence, and on average we do close to a million robotic surgeries a year globally,” said Parekh. “There are close to 5,000 robotic systems installed all over the world – each one costs about $2 million – and yet until we did this study there was not a single Phase 3 multicenter randomized trial comparing this expensive new technology to the traditional open approach of doing surgeries.”
Since robots started being used for surgical procedures, there has been a general assumption that patients who received robotic procedures would have a better quality of life following the surgery. But participants of the RAZOR study reported a return to their previous quality of life, regardless of the surgical method.
When it came to complication rates, the two groups of patients were similar with adverse events occurring in 67% of patients with the robotic procedure and 69% of patients with the traditional procedure. One major difference that can be found among the procedures is the steep cost robotic procedures put on the healthcare system. Money is always a concern in the healthcare field, especially with CNA HealthPro showing that 80% of malpractice claims are not caused by substandard procedures, but rather related to money problems.
One benefit that the study did find from robotic procedures is that those procedures tend to result in less blood loss, a lower chance of needing a blood transfusion, and possible shorter hospital stays. But neither robotic nor traditional procedures had higher risks of complications or recurrences of cancer.
With there being 770,000 drones registered with the FAA and thousands of other robotic devices, more and more people are developing uses for robots in today’s society, including medical procedures. According to Parekh, this study shows that more research needs to be done. More trials on different organs could show more differences between the two types of procedures. But the experts behind the research have hopes that this data can make a difference in the future.