Study finds robotic prostate removal surgery results in faster recovery times

Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci System--Courtesy of Intuitive Surgical

A study of robotic laparoscopic radical prostatectomy found that though it is more expensive than traditional prostate removal surgery and technically more demanding, it also associated with a quicker recovery of continence and shorter operating time.

From 2001 to 2010, the percentage of surgeons who performed mostly robotic prostatectomies increased from 0.7% to 42%. The cost of a robotic surgery was about $10,000 toward the end of the study period, while the traditional approach costs $9,000.

Using data from 489,369 men who underwent either conventional or robotic surgery between 2003 and 2010, the team found no significant difference in outcomes using a variety of measures such as tumor volume, but recovery of continence at four weeks was significantly better in the robotic surgery group, according to the study abstract in the urology journal BJU International.

"Our findings give insights on the adoption of not just robotic technology but future surgical innovations in terms of the general pattern of early diffusion, the potential impact on costs of new and competing treatments, and the alternations in practices patterns such as centralization of care to higher volume providers," said study co-author Dr. Steven Chang of Harvard Medical School in a statement.

The finding is an uncharacteristically positive one for Intuitive Surgical's ($ISRG) robotic da Vinci System, which has been marred by studies raising concerns about the device's safety, as well as recalls and concerns about the level of surgeon's training from the FDA. In July, Intuitive had to defend itself from a study claiming that insurance claims data shows that bladder cancer patients had a similar complication rate and length of hospital stay regardless of whether their bladder was removed robotically or in a more invasive open procedure.

- read the release
- here's the study abstract