Greater Risks with Robotic Surgery When Surgeons are Less Experienced

In April, the Archives of Surgery published a major article on the risks of robotic surgery by Buchs and others at the University of Illinois. The doctors looked at the outcome of 884 cases of robotic surgery performed at their institution, to see what role was played by the condition of the patient before surgery, the type of surgery, the skill of the surgeon, and the stresses caused by the surgery. Not surprisingly they found greater complications occurred as the surgery got more complicated or the patient was more debilitated beforehand. Also there were more complications when the surgeon had less experience.

Of the cases studied, more than 16% had post operative complications, and 1 in 200 died. In 1 in 50 instances, the robotic surgery had to be abandoned and the doctors had to resort to open surgery to deal with the problem created. For whatever reason, the authors chose not to tell the type of complications.

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