Surgeon says robotic surgery study done too soon to draw conclusions

New York-based study: Robotic surgery for bladder cancer no better than open surgery

In July, Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York City, a major cancer institute, released interim results to the New England Journal of Medicine claiming robotic surgery for bladder cancer was not any better than open surgery.

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Within days it made news and even appeared as a medical report on the "CBS Evening News."

It has also caused debate among the medical community according to Dr. Vipul Patel, the director of the Global Robotics Institute at Florida Hospital. 

Patel and his team of surgeons have performed around 7,500 robotic procedures. He said bladder cancer surgeries using the Da Vinci robot are relatively new.

"I think that's the fear with studies like this. Studies on the learning curve are always going to show not a huge difference in outcome or worse outcomes and higher costs," he said, adding that in five years he would expect drastically different results from a similar study. 

He also said the doctor who performed the study is a much more experienced with open surgery than with the robot and it only looked at the results at one hospital.

"So with this study we can say at Sloan Kettering their results are the same whether they are doing it with open or robotic but if you take the big centers in the United States who are doing a lot more of these they are publishing that their results are somewhat better," said Patel.

A widespread study regarding robotic prostatectomy indicated that patient recovery time is faster with the robotic than the open procedure, but found that the length of time in surgery was actually longer for the robotic technique.

Patel said that is not the case at Florida Hospital, with robotic procedures taking less than an hour, while an open procedure may have lasted several hours.

As for cost, he said that the more often robotic procedures are performed, the less expensive they are going to become at that institution.

"I think really the institution that you choose and the surgeon you choose is going to determine  the type of surgery that you have and the quality of that surgery," he said.

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