In a recent study presented at the annual meeting of the American Urological Association, Dr. Jeffrey K. Mullins of the Johns Hopkins Brady Urological Institute in Baltimore concluded that the adoption of robotic technology in organ-confined prostate cancer surgeries has a positive impact on patient morbidity, length of hospital stay, post-surgical hospital readmissions, and overall recovery. The study compared men operated on at hospitals employing robotic technology with men operated on at hospitals with no robotic technology. All of the men in the study underwent radical prostatectomy for organ-confined prostate cancer between 2000 and 2011.

Patient outcomes were analyzed by looking at in-hospital mortality, intensive care unit admissions, length of stay, and 30-day readmissions rates. The results show a statistically significant decrease in all of these areas in men who underwent robotic surgeries when compared with those who underwent conventional surgeries.

In hospitals utilizing robotic technology, the number of operative procedures for the treatment of prostatic cancer increased. Though the impact of this increase has not been studied to date, the rise in robotic technology surgeries is an interesting observation.

The effect of robotic technology on postoperative morbidity is noteworthy because men who get out of the hospital faster, and stay out of the hospital, are more likely to have a smooth recovery after surgery. Decreasing morbidity, length of hospital stay, and the 30-day readmission rate has a significant health-care cost implication. Robotic technology is expensive, however these potential cost savings might justify the added expense of acquiring robotic technology for many hospitals across the country.

In terms of significantly improved post-surgical morbidity, this preliminary data suggests that the robot clearly wins again.

Dudley S. Danoff, MD, FACS is the attending urologic surgeon and founder/president of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center Tower Urology Group in Los Angeles, California. He is the author of Penis Power: The Ultimate Guide To Male Sexual Health (Del Monaco Press, 2011) and Superpotency (Warner Books).

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