Current Status of Pediatric Robot-Assisted Surgery in Italy: Epidemiologic National Survey and Future Directions

J Laparoendosc Adv Surg Tech A. 2023 Jun;33(6):610-614. doi: 10.1089/lap.2019.0516. Epub 2020 Jan 9.


Background: Pediatric robot-assisted surgery (RAS) is gaining increasing acceptance. We aimed to assess the diffusion of pediatric RAS in Italy, the training period, indications, preliminary outcomes, and limitations. Materials and Methods: An online questionnaire-based survey was performed. The data about robotic activity of 9 Italian Pediatric Surgery units were collected and analyzed. Results: Most of the participating centers (7/9, 77.8%) started RAS less than 5 years ago with only 2 centers (22.2%) performing RAS since 2010. The training included dry-lab in 5/9 centers (55.5%), wet-lab in 5/9 centers (55.5%), and robot simulator in 7/9 centers (77.8%), followed by an exam to obtain a certificate. The average duration of training was 23.7 hours (range 5-50). A total of 209 robotic procedures was performed in all centers during the period 2010-2018 and included 119 urological (56.9%), 31 gynecological (14.8%), 41 gastrointestinal (19.6%), 12 oncological (5.7%), and 6 other (2.8%) procedures. The docking time significantly fell down after 18 robotic procedures (P = .001). Intraoperative complications were recorded in 4 cases (1.9%). Conversion to laparoscopy was needed in 4 cases (1.9%) whereas conversion to open was required in 6 cases (2.8%). Postoperative complications occurred in 17/209 cases (8.1%) and were graded Clavien I-II in 14 cases (6.7%) and Clavien IIIb in only 4 cases (1.9%). Conclusions: Our study confirmed that RAS has still a limited diffusion in Italy for pediatric patients. Before starting robotic activity, pediatric surgeons have to obtain a certificate after a virtual and experimental training period. A mentorship clinical period of 10 cases under supervision of a proctor is also needed. The main indications in children remain reconstructive urological procedures. RAS is safe in children but its applications are currently limited to patients older than 2 years and with a weight >15 kg, due to the size of robotic ports.

Keywords: children; complications; docking; robot; team; training.

MeSH terms

  • Child
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Laparoscopy* / methods
  • Plastic Surgery Procedures*
  • Robotic Surgical Procedures* / education
  • Robotics*