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Use, Cost, Complications, and Mortality of Robotic versus Nonrobotic General Surgery Procedures Based on a Nationwide Database

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Since its introduction in 1997, robotic surgery has overcome many limitations, including setup costs and surgeon training. The use of robotics in general surgery remains unknown. This study evaluates robotic-assisted procedures in general surgery by comparing characteristics with its nonrobotic (laparoscopic and open) counterparts. Weighted Healthcare Cost and Utilization Project Nationwide Inpatient Sample data (2008, 2009) were used to identify the top 12 procedures for robotic general surgery. Robotic cases were identified by Current Procedural Terminology codes 17.41 and 17.42. Procedures were grouped: esophagogastric, colorectal, adrenalectomy, lysis of adhesion, and cholecystectomy. Analyses were descriptive, t tests, χ2s, and logistic regression. Charges and length of stay were adjusted for gender, age, race, payer, hospital bed size, hospital location, hospital region, median household income, Charlson score, and procedure type. There were 1,389,235 (97.4%) nonrobotic and 37,270 (2.6%) robotic cases. Robotic cases increased from 0.8 per cent (2008) to 4.3 per cent (2009, P < 0.001). In all subgroups, robotic surgery had significantly shorter lengths of stay (4.9 days) than open surgery (6.1 days) and lower charges (median $30,540) than laparoscopic ($34,537) and open ($46,704) surgery. Fewer complications were seen in robotic-assisted colorectal, adrenalectomy and lysis of adhesion; however, robotic cholecystectomy and esophagogastric procedures had higher complications than nonrobotic surgery (P < 0.05). Overall robotic surgery had a lower mortality rate (0.097%) than nonrobotic surgeries per 10,000 procedures (laparoscopic 0.48%, open 0.92%; P < 0.001). The cost of robotic surgery is generally considered a prohibitive factor. In the present study, when overall cost was considered, including length of stay, robotic surgery appeared to be cost-effective and as safe as nonrobotic surgery except in cholecystectomy and esophagogastric procedures. Further study is needed to fully understand the long-term implications of this new technology.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: York Hospital, York, Pennsylvania; and †Penn State Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pennsylvania, USA

Publication date: 01 June 2013

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  • The Southeastern Surgical Congress owns and publishes The American Surgeon monthly. It is the official journal of the Congress and the Southern California Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, which all members receive each month. The journal brings up to date clinical advances in surgical knowledge in a popular reference format. In addition to publishing papers presented at the annual meetings of the associated organizations, the journal publishes selected unsolicited manuscripts. If you have a manuscript you'd like to see published in The American Surgeon select "Information for Authors" from the Related Information options below. A Copyright Release Form must accompany all manuscripts submitted.
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