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Robotic Surgery No Better for Bladder Cancer

As someone who has undergone robotic surgery, I can say that I thought it was a great option for me.  However, recent studies are showing that there really is no different in outcomes between robotic and traditional surgery.  Although some proponents of robotic surgery say that it is better for patients because of improved precision, a recent study conducted with bladder cancer patients undergoing robotic versus traditional surgery showed no difference in rates of post-op complications or length of hospital stay.

Robotic Surgery Booms in Popularity But Comes With a Cost

Robotic surgery has increased in popularity over the past few years, with robots used in 422,000 surgeries in surgical centers across the U.S. last year alone.  That’s a 15% increase in the use of robots for surgery compared to 2012; however, robotic surgery is not cheap.  One robot costs $1.7 million and the average cost of one robotic surgery was about $1,600 more than traditional surgery in 2010.   Furthermore, some are saying that the reliance on robots for surgery has led to a decline in the number of medical residents trained in open surgery.  This is a scary implication for the future if it does turn out that open surgery is better for patients’ well-being but there are no new doctors that know how or feel comfortable performing open surgeries.

Patient Well-Being Paramount in Deciding Which Surgery is Best

A primary conclusion of the recent study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, is that it is important to make the decision of robotic surgery versus traditional surgery by considering the well-being of the patient.  If a new technology offers better patient outcomes, then it makes sense to spend the money on equipment and training.  However, if a new technology does nothing to improve patient outcomes and its expensive, then clearly it should not be incorporated into the toolkit of medical technology and procedures.

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