Do Robots Improve Prostate Surgery Outcomes?

Prostate cancer surgical techniques have same side effect profiles

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

(RxWiki News) Having the prostate removed is a treatment option open to most men with localized prostate cancer. Robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy is becoming more popular than the traditional open radical prostatectomy.

What about side effects, though? Is one better than the other?

A recently published study involving Medicare-aged men shows there's no significant difference in the incidence or severity of common after effects following prostate cancer surgery. Both robotic and traditional surgical methods leave men with sexual and urinary function problems.

"Make sure you understand all of your surgical options."

Michael J. Barry, M.D., chief of the General Medicine Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital, and colleagues sought to learn if robotic surgery causes fewer or less problematic side effects.

Robotic surgery is touted to offer a number of advantages over conventional procedures, including less pain, less blood loss and a quicker recovery.

A sample of Medicare claims filed between August 1 and December 31, 2008 were drawn and reviewed.  The patients had all had radical prostatectomies, undergoing either robotic (406 men) or open (220 men) surgeries.

A total of 685 men were mailed and completed surveys in which they rated sexual and continence problems they'd experienced roughly 14 months after surgery.

Just over 30 percent of the men reported having either moderate or big problems with urinary control, and 88 percent said they had moderate or severe problems with sexual function.

"The study reveals that there’s no statistical significance between the two techniques in recovery of sexual or urinary function," said Brian J. Miles, M.D., F.A.C.S., a urologist who specializes in Robotic Radical Retropubic Prostatectomy at Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas.  "It has been shown in a great number of studies that there are differences based on surgeon, surgeon volume, and the institution where these procedures are carried out, but as I would expect in a broad Medicare survey like this, quality of life outcomes are similar," Dr. Miles told dailyRx.

So while robotic surgery offers certain advantages over conventional prostate surgery, this technology does not have an impact on two of the most common and uncomfortable side effects.

Findings from this research were published online January 3, 2012 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

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Review Date: 
January 10, 2012
Last Updated:
September 27, 2012