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Robotic Surgery Oversold on Hospital Websites, Study Contends
Date:5/22/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, May 20 (HealthDay News) -- Many hospitals tout the benefits of robotic surgery on their websites without solid scientific evidence to back up those claims, Johns Hopkins researchers report.

In fact, four out of 10 hospitals in the study only used manufacturers' claims that robotic surgery is better than conventional surgery, an assertion that the researchers said is unproven and misleading.

The findings are especially troubling since consumers depend on hospital websites for reliable, trustworthy information, the study authors said.

"Hospital websites are a trusted source of medical information for the public," said lead researcher Dr. Marty Makary, an associate professor of surgery at Hopkins.

"This is the first time we've seen industry create content, with disclosures, and put it on the official hospital website to educate patients about treatment options," he said. "To me, that's a very scary trend."

Robotic surgery has grown more than 400 percent over the past four years, Makary pointed out. "It's one of the great modern crazes," he said. "And the public is driven by the idea that more technology means better care."

Proponents say robot-assisted surgeries require smaller incisions, are more precise and result in less pain and shorter hospital stays. The study authors said those claims are unsubstantiated.

The growth of robotic surgery has been driven by hospital marketing, Makary said. "Marketing a robot has become a very successful strategy for hospitals. It implies the hospital has state-of-the-art care," he said. "Patients may perceive the hospital is on the cutting edge because they do robotic surgery."

Makary noted that often hospitals do not mention the material on their website was provided by the manufacturer, and the sites often fail to mention the risks associated with robotic surgery. Risks include being under anesthe
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