Is Robotic Surgery Really a Game Changer?

Research-based evidence: Two sides of the same coin

There are several review articles based on non-randomized studies that suggest that the outcome measure of robotic surgery is no different when compared to conventional laparoscopic or open surgery. Some of the procedures extensively studied and compared by researchers around the world include cholecystectomy, esophageal reflux disease, colorectal surgery, gynecological surgery, prostate cancer surgery, and abdominal surgery.

It is time-intensive

Robotic surgery is a lot more time-intensive than laparoscopic surgery. The author of a paper published in the Journal of Minimal Access Surgery claims that the time taken to complete one surgical case laboriously and meticulously in a robotic operating room (OR) is almost equivalent to completion of four complex laparoscopy cases in other ORs.

It is costlier than laparoscopic and open surgery

The same research paper also details on the cost associated with the use of robotic technology. Robot installation in the ORs required an initial investment of at least $1,500,000 to $2,000,000 and the maintenance costs are estimated to be around $350,000 to $400,000. Moreover, it makes use of expensive sterile drapes and disposable instruments.

It cannot act independently

Robotic hands can access inoperable areas and other remote tissues in the human body. But a surgeon is almost always required to make the decision and guide the robotic tools to perform specific actions. Completely independent and decision-making robots are yet to become a common entity in the ORs. Clinicians and researchers around the world are working on artificially-intelligent robots that can learn on their own, make a decision, and perform tasks independently.

Even if it acts independently, human surveillance will always be required

Decision-making robots are not common yet, but they may become common in the future. One of the biggest questions that the medical fraternity is busy debating about is whether a robot can be given the responsibility to control the life of the patient single-handedly? They are just machines, after all, which is at a risk of breakdown of faulty programming. Human surgeons will still be required to watch over these machines.

It may divert the ultimate objective of the surgeons

Not all surgeons are trained to handle robots in the operating room. In fact, training for robotic surgery is difficult, even for surgeons with an extensive experience. This is because it involves learning an entirely new skill set from scratch.

Positive aspects of robotic surgery

Even though there are a lot of cons associated with the use of robots in the OR, the specific advantages of the technology cannot be denied. Robotic technology is absolutely a boon for patients with illness or discomfort in an organ located in “cramped spaces”. Robotic surgery for cancer of the cervix and the prostate are considered highly successful and convenient.

10 claimed benefits of robotic surgery

  • Less traumatic and minimal scarring
  • Improved surgeon’s comfort
  • Targeted approach
  • Greater focus, precision, and accuracy
  • Reduced duration of hospital stay
  • Quicker recovery
  • Better surgical outcomes
  • Enhanced 360-degree dexterity
  • Provides better access to hard-to-reach areas
  • Extreme future potential of modified use

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The Doctor Weighs In

The Doctor Weighs In

Dr. Patricia Salber and friends weigh in on leading news in health and healthcare