What Are the Adoption Patterns of Robotic Colorectal Cancer Surgery?

Viewpoints from Steven Wexner, MD

By Steven Wexner, MD

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As I have discussed in prior Consult QD posts, although the robot adds a significance expense to the treatment of rectal cancer it has not been proven to have any statistically significant advantages. However, due to a variety of market forces and claims of ergonometric superiority, surgeons continue to adopt the technology.

Schootman and colleagues used the National Inpatient Sample (NIS) to evaluate any changes in adoption of robotic technology between 2010 and 2012.

During that time, they noted an increase in hospitals using robotic-assisted surgery to treat colorectal cancer from 20.1 percent to 27.4 percent. Yet robotic-assisted surgery accounted for only 1.3 percent of colorectal cancer operations during that period, with a wide range from 0.1 percent to 15.2 percent.

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Interestingly, and perhaps intuitively, there was a shift in the percentage of patients who underwent minimally invasive surgery whose surgery had been performed with the robotic platform, from 1.5 percent in 2010 to 3.6 percent in 2012.

In addition, the authors identified the largest increase in the deployment of the robot in patients with rectal cancer, increasing from 5.5 percent in 2010 to 13.3 percent in 2012.

The authors offer an interesting conclusion that “there is wide variation in the use of this technology that likely is related to market forces.” I agree with their assessment.