October 9, 2014 — Robotic surgery for removing ovaries and ovarian cysts results in a higher rate of complications and costs significantly more than regular minimally invasive surgery alternatives, according to a study published Tuesday in Obstetrics & Gynecology, the Wall Street Journal reports.
According to some experts, robotic surgery, which involves tiny incisions, offers such benefits as less blood loss, pain and postoperative pain medication compared with traditional open surgery. Other experts have argued that regular laparoscopic surgery has those same benefits and does not involve any additional investment like robotic surgery.
For the study, researchers from Columbia University examined "records of more than 87,000 women who had their ovaries or ovarian cysts removed at 502 hospitals between 2009 and 2012." The researchers reviewed use of the da Vinci Surgical System, which consists of robotic arms equipped with surgical equipment that surgeons operate via computer.
The study found that 7.1% of patients who had their ovaries removed with robotic surgery experienced complications, compared with 6% of those who underwent regular laparoscopic surgery. Meanwhile, 3.7% of the women who had ovarian cysts removed using robotic surgery had complications, compared with 2.7% of those who had regular laparoscopy.
In addition, robotic surgery was more costly than laparoscopy for both procedures, according to the study. Specifically, compared with the laparoscopic method, ovary removal using robotic surgery was $2,504 more and cyst removal with robotic surgery cost $3,311 more (Beck, Wall Street Journal, 10/7).
The percentage of surgeries to remove ovaries that used robotic surgical equipment increased from 3.5% to 15% and jumped to 12.9% from 2.4% for ovarian cyst removal during the study period.
Lead study author Jason Wright said, "The big take-home point is that from a hospital's perspective, it's much, much, much more expensive" (Hernandez, "Capsules," Kaiser Health News, 10/7). He added, "People need to stop and critically analyze whether using this expensive technology will really add any benefit for patients" (Wall Street Journal, 10/7).