Dr. Michael Zinner, chief of surgery at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said there are advantages to robotically assisted surgery in certain situations.
"The robotic device is easy to learn," Zinner said. "The wrist on the machine gives you [greater flexibility] unlike a straight laparoscope that's more like a chopstick. If the surgeon has any slight tremor, the machine evens it out," he said. In cases such as prostate surgery, where the surgery must take place in a very confined space and there's a significant risk of nerve damage, the delicate, articulating robotic device can be ideal, he said.
But for larger areas of the body, a laparoscope generally works just as well. "Nobody talks about using robotic surgery for removing the gallbladder," noted Zinner, because it would be more expensive without providing an additional benefit. Zinner co-wrote an editorial in the same issue of the journal.
In the current study, Wright and his colleagues reviewed data from more than 264,000 women who had a hysterectomy for a non-cancerous condition.
Robotically assisted hysterectomies were performed 0.5 percent of the time in 2007. By 2010, that number had jumped to 9.5 percent. The rate of laparoscopic surgery also increased during this time period, from 24.3 percent to 30.5 percent, according to the study.
At hospitals that introduced robotically assisted hysterectomy, its use quickly rose, the study found. But at hospitals without the robotic option, use of laparoscopic hysterectomy increased during the same time period. Overall, abdominal and vaginal hysterectomies declined.
Robotically assisted hysterectomy was less likely to lead to a hospital stay of two days or more compared to laparoscopic surgery, but the two procedures were similar in all other measured complications.
Where the two procedures differed most significantly w
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