An ever-increasing number of hysterectomies are conducted with the assistance of robots. While the commercialization of these devices has been a boon for the medtech industry, some researchers question the value of robot-assisted hysterectomies. According to a study at the Columbia University Medical Center, the increased cost of robot-assisted surgeries may not improve patient outcome.
According to the study, proponents of robotic hysterectomy procedures state that the new technology gives women who normally undergo a laparotomy the ability to undergo a minimally-invasive procedure. However, there is little hard data to back up this claim. Since both robotic hysterectomies and laparoscopic operations have low complication rates, one procedure may not provide statistically significant benefits over other procedures.
A hysterectomy is one of the most common procedures performed in women, with an estimated one-in-nine undergoing the operation at some point in life. In 2007, robot-assisted hysterectomies comprised 0.5 percent of all hysterectomy operations. By 2010, that number swelled to 9.5 percent. Laparoscopy operations also increased from 2007 to 2010, going from 24.3 percent to 30.5 percent.
In the study, researchers asked, "Would it be a better use of resources to train more surgeons in laparoscopic techniques than to spend the money on more robot machines? When the innovation being advertised is of questionable advantage, direct-to-consumer promotion may only fuel unnecessary utilization.” They further noted, "In the absence of additional research or decreases in price, the path taken by the medical and payer community should be one of caution. At a minimum, manufacturers might begin by voluntarily restricting their promotional activities."