Robots in the Operating Room

Bladder cancer removal improved outcomes with robotic assistance

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) The phrase robotic surgery may sound scary, but it just means that surgeons sits at a computer. They control a precise machine that has the ability to make much smaller cuts than otherwise possible.

Naturally, the benefits of the robotic surgery relate to smaller cuts and quicker healing. Another advantage of machine assistance is the surgeon can always hit pause in an emergency.

"Ask your surgeon about robotic assisted surgery."

A study recently published by authors from the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California - Los Angeles (UCLA) compared robotic surgery for bladder cancer to standard surgery.

Resesarchers found that despite a higher surgery cost, complications and deaths were reduced with the use of surgical robots.

Previous studies on robotic surgery were not as in depth, and did not directly compare results to traditional surgeries.

The study's senior author Jim Hu, MD, didn't expect the difference to be so significant this early in the development of the technique.

"While we expected to see greater expenses associated with the robotic procedure for bladder cancer, we were surprised to see the significant reduction in deaths and complications, particularly this early in its adoption," said Dr. Hu.

Study data was taken from 2009, looking at all surgeries classified as radical cystectomy for bladder cancer. Using statistics, researchers compared the results from 1,444 traditional open surgeries against the 224 robotic-assisted laparoscopic procedures, which are becoming more common every year. 

Surgery always have some risks involved, but the advantages of robotic-assisted surgery were clear. Complications from the surgery were 49 percent when robots were used, compared to 64 percent with traditional surgical techniques.

The difference in cost averaged at about $3,000, but Dr. Hu admitted that it was hard to include all of the factors that influence price.

Dr. Hu also noted that the results may reflect the fact that nearly all of the robotic surgeries are performed at teaching hospitals.

With time, more and more surgeons will be trained in minimally invasive surgery, and robotic assistance is a big part of that.

Study data was published in the journal European Urology.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 9, 2012
Last Updated:
May 10, 2012