OB-GYNs: Beware Marketing Hype On Robotic Hysterectomy

The influential American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) is warning women that despite an aggressive marketing campaign to promote pricey robotic surgery for hysterectomies, that approach may not be the best choice available for patients.

Citing a recent JAMA study that found robotic hysterectomies cost more but aren’t really better, ACOG president, James T. Breeden, MD, in a statement said it’s “important to separate the hype from reality” when considering this type of robotic surgery.
robotic surgery

Here’s the full ACOG statement:

Many women today are hearing about the claimed advantages of robotic surgery for hysterectomy, thanks to widespread marketing and advertising. Robotic surgery is not the only or the best minimally invasive approach for hysterectomy. Nor is it the most cost-efficient. It is important to separate the marketing hype from the reality when considering the best surgical approach for hysterectomies.

The outcome of any surgery is directly associated with the surgeon’s skill. Highly skilled surgeons attain expertise through years of training and experience. Studies show there is a learning curve with new surgical technologies, during which there is an increased complication rate. Expertise with robotic hysterectomy is limited and varies widely among both hospitals and surgeons. While there may be some advantages to the use of robotics in complex hysterectomies, especially for cancer operations that require extensive surgery and removal of lymph nodes, studies have shown that adding this expensive technology for routine surgical care does not improve patient outcomes. Consequently, there is no good data proving that robotic hysterectomy is even as good as—let alone better—than existing, and far less costly, minimally invasive alternatives. Continue reading

Robotic-Assisted Hysterectomy Costs More, But No Better, Study Finds

Robotic-assisted surgery is all the rage — it’s up about 400 percent in the last few years, according to one estimate.

Robotic hysterectomies are also on the rise: in the U.S. thousands of women undergo hysterectomies for various gynecological disorders and many of these are performed using minimally invasive techniques, including laparoscopy and with the help of a surgical robot.

But a new study from the Journal of the American Medical Association that compared robotic and laparoscopic hysterectomies among more than 264,000 women with non-cancerous gynecologic conditions found that there was no difference in complication rates or outcomes. The big difference was cost: the robotic hysterectomy was, on average, about $2,200 more, the study found.
robotic surgery

The JAMA report notes that robotic hysterectomies took off in recent years, up from 0.5% in 2007 to 9.5% by 2010.

One driver is likely the intense marketing of surgical robots by its manufacturers. A 2011 study out of Johns Hopkins found that hospitals are misleading patients about the benefits of robotic surgery and that hospital websites routinely use industry-provided content and overstate claims of robotic success. Continue reading