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A surgeon’s hands or a robot’s?

Philadelphia Inquirer, August 24, 2010

Hundreds of thousands of patients across the country to undergo robotic surgery in recent years. Since the first device was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 1999, robotic surgery has grown rapidly and is now used in dozens of procedures. Among the most common are removal of the gall bladder, uterus (hysterectomy) prostate, kidney, and uterine fibroids, as well as gastric bypass and mitral-valve repair. In laparoscopic robotic surgery, the surgeon is farther removed from the patient. A 3-D camera and machine-held surgical instruments are inserted through small incisions. The surgeon operates while seated at a console nearby. Proponents say this leads to less-invasive and more-accurate surgery. But that does not necessarily mean outcomes are better. Some doctors say more research is needed to prove that certain robotic procedures are superior to other operations. Recent reports of problematic robotic surgeries have also led to concern about whether all doctors who use the devices have been sufficiently trained.