Long-term study finds robot surgery safe

Robot-assisted surgery to remove cancerous prostates is most common treatment in U.S. for treating localized prostate cancer, study says.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
2 min read

The da Vinci Surgical System is often used in robot-assisted prostate cancer operations. Intuitive Surgical

Robot-assisted surgery to remove cancerous prostate glands is safe over the long term and has a major complication rate of less than 1 percent, according to research published by the journal European Urology.

An earlier study showed almost 87 percent of patients had no recurrence of cancer after five years, according to a release by the Henry Ford Health System. The procedure removes the entire prostate gland and some surrounding tissue.

Researchers followed 3,317 patients at the Vattikuti Urology Institute in Detroit from January 2005 to December 2009. The institute is known for the work of Dr. Mani Menon, who has been performing robot-assisted prostate removals since 2001. Staff use the da Vinci robot surgical system by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based Intuitive Surgical.

Surgeons using the da Vinci system remotely control robot arms that create small incisions in the patient while monitoring progress on screens.

The patients had a median hospitalization time of only one day, and complications, which can include blood loss, were reported in nearly 10 percent of patients. Most were minor. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA) scores before surgery, as well as existing heart disease, were predictors of complications.

The conclusion of the study, the first of its kind, is that robot-assisted removal of cancerous prostate glands is safe over the long term.

Robot-assisted radical prostatectomy (RARP), as it's called, is the most common technique in the U.S. in treating localized prostate cancer, according to the study.

Detroit's Henry Ford Hospital, which hosts the institute, also said this month that a study has found that robot surgery to treat kidney disease is as effective or better than minimally invasive laparoscopic procedures.

Intuitive Surgical, meanwhile, has been growing at more than 25 percent annually. In January, it reported 2010 fourth-quarter revenue of $389 million, up 21 percent.