Inequalities in access to minimally invasive general surgery: a comprehensive nationwide analysis across 20 years

Surg Endosc. 2021 Nov;35(11):6227-6243. doi: 10.1007/s00464-020-08123-0. Epub 2020 Nov 18.


Background: Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has profoundly changed standards of care and lowered perioperative morbidity, but its temporal implementation and factors favoring MIS access remain elusive. We aimed to comprehensibly investigate MIS adoption across different surgical procedures over 20 years, identify predictors for MIS amenability and compare propensity score-matched outcomes among MIS and open surgery.

Methods: Nationwide retrospective analysis of all hospitalizations in Switzerland between 1998 and 2017. Appendectomies (n = 186,929), cholecystectomies (n = 57,788), oncological right (n = 9138) and left hemicolectomies (n = 21,580), rectal resections (n = 13,989) and gastrectomies for carcinoma (n = 6606) were included. Endpoints were assessment of temporal MIS implementation, identification of predictors for MIS access and comparison of propensity score-matched outcomes among MIS and open surgery.

Results: The rates of MIS increased for all procedures during the study period (p ≤ 0.001). While half of all appendectomies were performed laparoscopically by 2005, minimally invasive oncological colorectal resections reached 50% only by 2016. Multivariate analyses identified older age (p ≤ 0.02, except gastrectomy), higher comorbidities (p ≤ 0.001, except rectal resections), lack of private insurance (p ≤ 0.01) as well as rural residence (p ≤ 0.01) with impaired access to MIS. Rural residence correlated with low income regions (p ≤ 0.001), which themselves were associated with decreased MIS access. Geographical mapping confirmed strong disparities for rural and low-income areas in MIS access. Matched outcome analyses revealed benefits of MIS for length of stay, decreased surgical site infection rates for MIS appendectomies and cholecystectomies and higher mortality for open cholecystectomies. No consistent morbidity or mortality benefit for MIS compared to open colorectal resections was observed.

Conclusion: Unequal access to MIS exists in disfavor of older and more comorbid patients and those lacking private insurance, living in rural areas, and having lower income. Efforts should be made to ensure equal MIS access regardless of socioeconomic or geographical factors.

Keywords: Appendectomy; Cholecystectomy; Colectomy; Gastrectomy; Laparoscopy; Minimally invasive surgery; Outcomes; Rectal resection; Robotic surgery.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Colectomy
  • Humans
  • Minimally Invasive Surgical Procedures*
  • Proctectomy*
  • Propensity Score
  • Retrospective Studies