By Jennifer Lilonsky ( | First Posted: Feb 20, 2013 05:29 PM EST

Tokyo, JapanPark Young-kwang (L), a doctoral course postgraduate of Waseda University, helps a participant in using training units for coronary artery bypass surgery at the Robotics Boot Camp event at a Waseda University campus in Tokyo August 5, 2007. The event is organised for school and university students, as part of Waseda University's 21st Century Centre of Excellence (COE) Programme "The innovative research on symbiosis technologies for human and robots in the elderly dominated society", to understand robotic technology by using the latest robots, the organiser said. REUTERS/Kiyoshi Ota (JAPAN) (Photo : Reuters )

A new study reveals that hysterectomies performed by robots from Intuitive Surgical Inc. cost a substantial amount more money than traditional less-invasive procedures.

And even more, the study finds that robot-assisted surgeries offer no decreased risk of complications.

"The major concern is that the robotic procedure really didn't show a lower complication rate yet it was substantially more expensive," said Jason Wright, the study lead author and gynecologic oncologist at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.  

The robotic rendition of the procedure costs thousands of dollars more than the standard hysterectomy surgery.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association and analyzed data from 264,758 women who underwent hysterectomies for benign medical conditions like fibroids.

The women in the study had their procedures performed at 441 U.S. hospitals between 2007 and 2010.

Robotic procedures were found to cost hospitals $2,189 more for each hysterectomy in comparison to other surgeries that accomplished the same goal.

Data from the study also revealed that robotic hysterectomy operations increased 9.5 percent in 2010 from 0.5 percent in 2007.

So, why did robotic procedures increase so quickly?

Well, Wright said that is "the million dollar question."

The standard hysterectomy procedure involves a less-invasive form of surgery known as laparoscopy where surgeons use instruments via several small incisions in the abdomen while using a camera to navigate their way inside the patient.

"Patients need to be aware that there are a lot of different options for hysterectomy," Wright said. 

Robotics were approved for gynecological procedures in 2005, but less invasive types of surgeries have been available for years, according to Wright who also noted that 600,000 hysterectomies are performed in the U.S. each year.

The study findings also showed that complication rates for the robotic procedure were 5.5 percent and 5.3 percent for laparoscopic surgery.

But there was one benefit in regard to the robotic hysterectomy in that since it has been used, there was a decrease in the amount of women who received an open hysterectomy in which the uterus is removed from a large incision in the abdomen.

Wright speculates that hospitals choose to use robots despite their higher cost to compete with other hospitals that have them.

The lead author also noted that more studies have to be conducted to determine whether some women clearly benefit from robotic hysterectomies as opposed to the standard minimally invasive procedure.


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