Is Robot Surgery worth the cost?

The coming thing in heart surgery – and almost any type of surgical procedure – is robotic surgery. Forget the popular image of R2D2 wearing a surgical cap and mask, there is ultimately a qualified surgeon at the controls of the robot. When you think of Robotic Surgery, you usually think of the da Vinci Surgical System, which has multiple uses in several medical fields. And just yesterday it was reported that a British citizen had an ablation using a robot to guide the procedure. And recently a computer was used to develop a model of a patient’s beating heart, which would allow a robot to perform a surgical procedure without use of the Heart-Lung machine.

But does Robotic Surgery provide better results or is it just the newest tool? The Robotic arm used in that British ablation cost £350,000. (Over $525,000 US Dollars; using today’s conversion rate) Who pays for the cost of that piece of equipment? Patients.

In a post on KevinMD’s website, Peggy Peck asks if Robotic Surgery for Prostrate Cancer offers any advantages. Disturbingly, the answer is “no”, despite claims to the contrary. In fact, men undergoing the minimally invasive procedure tend to have more problems in the long run.

The Law of Supply and Demand is a major factor in the use of Robotic Surgery options – with the patients providing most of the demand. The average Robotic Surgery costs about $2000 more than hands on surgery, but patients continue to demand it:

It’s come to a point where “patients interview you,” according to a urologist. “‘They say: ‘Do you use the robot? O.K., well, thank you.’ And they leave.”

And with healthcare finances shaky, a hospital almost has to invest in a Robotic Surgical System to keep up with the hospital across town. Patients undergoing any kind of surgery in which Robotic Surgery is an option should do their own research and determine if they would rather have all the bells and whistles or have their surgery done the old-fashioned way.

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