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Robotic Surgery Hikes Hysterectomy Costs

Cheryl Clark, for HealthLeaders Media, February 20, 2013

Wright says that though laparoscopic surgery has been around since the 1990s, "the uptake has been relatively slow." But once the da Vinci robot was introduced in 2005, the percentage of women who underwent abdominal hysterectomy began to drop. For some reason, the number of surgeons willing to perform the procedure less-expensively, with traditional laparoscopic techniques, never really took off.

Wright says that because of the number of patients in his analysis, his report might change the conversation between gynecologic surgeons and their patients. "It's reassuring because for both procedures, for lap and robotic hysterectomy, the complication rate was low for both operations."

Intuitive says some 1,871 da Vinci robots are now in use in U.S. hospitals, where they are approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for otolaryngologic and thoracoscopic procedures in addition to gynecologic and urologic surgery.  The robots are also used for cholecystectomy, gastric bypass, and mitral valve repair. Prices ranges from $1.2 million to $2.2 million per machine.

An accompanying editorial by Joel Weissman, PhD and Michael Zinner, MD, of  Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, said hospitals and doctors need to keep better registry data, because robotic surgery may prove more "valuable for subgroups of patients with select comorbidities or anatomy."

Nevertheless, they criticize the "commercialization of this technology, which has raised eyebrows in the media and elsewhere" for taking direct-to-consumer marketing "to a higher level with advanced campaigns not only by industry but also by surgeons and the hospitals that own the machines."

When what is being advertised "is of questionable advantage, direct-to-consumer promotion may only fuel unnecessary utilization," they wrote. "Consumer advertising of expensive devices should be subjected to the same scrutiny as that of new and expensive medications."


Cheryl Clark is senior quality editor and California correspondent for HealthLeaders Media. She is a member of the Association of Health Care Journalists.
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1 comments on "Robotic Surgery Hikes Hysterectomy Costs"


aaron wilson (3/1/2013 at 11:00 AM)
At our Hospital the robot costs (on average)only $300 to 400 dollars more for a robotic Hysterectomy. The article glosses over the fact that robotic patients have a better chance at going home earlier. Most people, if given the chance, would rather spend less rather than more time in a hospital. The longer you stay in a Hospital the greater your chances of a nosocomial infection. It is established fact that a longer hospital stay increases a patient's chance of a Hospital acquired infection. A better title would have been. "Robotic hysterectomy patients go home quicker - with a price."