Background: In recent years, robot-assisted surgery using the da Vinci System® has been proposed as an alternative to traditional open or laparoscopic procedures. The aim of this study was to compare the short-term outcomes for open, laparoscopic, and robot-assisted rectal resection for cancer.
Methods: Two hundred sixty-three patients with rectal cancer who underwent curative resection between 2007 and 2009 were included. Patients were classified into an open surgery group (OS, n = 88), a laparoscopic surgery group (LAP, n = 123), and a robot-assisted group (RAP, n = 52). Data analyzed include operating time, length of recovery, methods of specimen extraction, quality of total mesorectal excision, and morbidity.
Results: The mean operating time was 233.8 ± 59.2 min for the OS group, 158.1 ± 49.2 min for the LAP group, and 232.6 ± 52.4 min for the RAP group (p < 0.001). Patients from the LAP and RAP groups recovered significantly faster than did those from the OS group (p < 0.05). The proportion of operations performed through a natural orifice (intracorporeal anastomosis with transanal or transvaginal retrieval of specimens) was significantly higher in the RAP group (p < 0.001). The specimen quality--with a distal resection margin, harvested lymph nodes, and circumferential margin--did not differ among the three groups. The overall complication rates were 20.5, 12.2, and 19.2% in the OS, LAP, and RAP groups, respectively (p = 0.229).
Conclusions: RAP and LAP reproduce the equivalent short-term results of standard OS while providing the advantages of minimal access. For the experienced laparoscopic colorectal oncologist, use of the da Vinci robot resulted in no significant short-term clinical benefit over the conventional laparoscopic approach.