Da Vinci surgical robots have become ubiquitous in U.S. hospitals, with about 1,500 now operating just in the United States. But their rapid adoption has raised questions about whether they are really superior to other surgical methods such as laparotomy or an open surgery.
They are expensive, costing an estimated $3.5 million over a five-year period. And their comparative effectiveness over other surgical procedures has not been well documented.
In a January report, the ECRI Institute noted that in the midst of the growth of these devices, "questions remain about clinician learning curves, what the ideal training program is, how many procedures are needed to maintain proficiency and what criteria hospitals should use to credential surgeons using these systems."
Proponents of robotic surgery state that the benefits this technology offers, including improved visualization, precision, and dexterity for the surgeon, make these systems well worth the added cost incurred to implement and maintain them," the ECRI report said.
"While this may be true, the real unanswered questions are how much value they add and, more importantly, how and when will they definitively improve patient care and long-term outcomes?"