Monday, August 11, 2008

Surgical Side Effects Decrease with Robotics

By: Jenny Walters

A recent article on entitled “Surgical side effects cut with robotics,” by Danielle Delloroto discussed the growing trend of robotic surgery.[1] Over the past four years, robotic surgery used to treat prostate cancer has increased from 10,000 in 2004 to 70,000 in 2008.

The advantages to using robots during surgery include fewer side effects and quicker recovery times. Such advantages have lead to the increased use of robotics for other surgeries, including hysterectomy, kidney cancer, and some heart procedures.1

According to Dr. Nikhil Shah, one benefit of robotic surgery is precision that far exceeds the human hand. Dr. Shah went on to state in prostatectomy: “the robot controlled scalpel works delicately around the nerves and blood vessels in the pelvic area, vastly reducing the risk of damage that can lead to incontinence or impotence.”1

Another clear advantage of robotic surgery in a prostatectomy is reduced blood loss. In a traditional prostatectomy, a 4 ½ inch incision is required. In robotic surgery patients have six dime-sized incisions in the abdomen and are often in the hospital for less than 24 hours.1

Dr. Shah stated, “Not everyone qualifies for robotic surgery…patients with excess abdominal fat and those with cancer that is not localized would not be the ideal candidate.” In addition, it is important to note, the surgery can cost up to $15,000 and is not always covered by insurance.1

Although robotic surgery is increasing in use, the American Urological Association (AUA) has not yet described the procedure as “the new gold standard of care.” According to AUA spokesperson Dr. J. Brantley Thrasher, chairman of urology at University of Kansas Medical Center: “The outcomes of robotics operations have been excellent…But to say we’ve seen a quantum leap in regards of one treatment being better than the other is premature.”1

Thrasher did acknowledge that robotics prostate surgery is the fastest growing surgical procedure. She also went on to state, robotic surgery is being driven by the consumer, “with patients requesting is like never before.”1

Overall, this article described what will be an increasing trend in all areas of surgery, not just for prostate cancer. My father recently underwent a prostatectomy. Unfortunately, he did not qualify for the robotic surgery because the cancer was not localized. Therefore, he had a lengthy recovery and had to miss 6 weeks of work.

It is important to remember what Dr. Shah said, robotic surgery is not for every patient. Although robotics surgery may sound quick and easy, there are risks and benefits involved in all types of surgery.

[1] Dellorto D. Surgical side effects cut with robotics. August 2008. Available at: Accessed on August 5, 2008.

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