Clinical Outcomes of Robotic Surgery Compared to Conventional Surgical Approaches (Laparoscopic or Open): A Systematic Overview of Reviews

Ann Surg. 2021 Mar 1;273(3):467-473. doi: 10.1097/SLA.0000000000003915.


Objective: Describe clinical outcomes (eg, postoperative complications, survival) after robotic surgery compared to open or laparoscopic surgery.

Background: Robotic surgery utilization has increased over the years across a wide range of surgical procedures. However, evidence supporting improved clinical outcomes after robotic surgery is limited.

Methods: We systematically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Central Register of systematic reviews from inception to January 2019 for systematic reviews describing postoperative outcomes after robotic surgery. We qualitatively described patient outcomes of commonly performed robotic procedures: radical prostatectomy, hysterectomy, lobectomy, thymectomy, rectal resection, partial nephrectomy, distal gastrectomy, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass, hepatectomy, distal pancreatectomy, and cholecystectomy.

Results: One hundred fifty-four systematic reviews included 336 studies and 18 randomized controlled trials reporting on patient outcomes after robotic compared to laparoscopic or open procedures. Data from the randomized controlled trials demonstrate that robotic-assisted radical prostatectomy offered fewer biochemical recurrence and improvement in quality of recovery and pain scores only up to 6 weeks postoperatively compared to open radical prostatectomy. When compared to laparoscopic prostatectomy, robotic surgery offered improved urinary and sexual functions. Robotic surgery for endometrial cancer had fewer conversion to open compared to laparoscopic. Otherwise, robotic surgery outcomes were similar to conventional surgical approaches for other procedures except for radical hysterectomy where minimally invasive approaches may result in patient harm compared to open approach.

Conclusion: Robotic surgery has been widely incorporated into practise despite limited supporting evidence. More rigorous research focused on patient-important benefits is needed before further expansion of robotic surgery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Laparoscopy*
  • Laparotomy*
  • Postoperative Complications
  • Robotic Surgical Procedures*
  • Survival Rate

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