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Robotic surgery equally effective as traditional open surgery for bladder cancer

The outcome of robotic-assisted surgery and traditional open surgery are equally effective in treating bladder cancer, say scientists, led by an Indian-origin researcher.

The results, published in the journal The Lancet, may help patients and doctors to make informed decisions on the use of robotic surgery, which is not cheap, the researchers said.

There has been an assumption that patients who receive robotic surgery will perceive a better quality of life than patients who have open surgery. However, the trial showed that both groups had a significant return to their previous quality of life, and there was no advantage of one group over the other at three and six months after surgery.

“We have done more than four million surgeries with the robotic approach since the device came into existence, and on average we do close to a million robotic surgeries a year globally,” said Dipen J. Parekh, Chief Clinical Officer at the University of Miami, Florida in the US.

“There’s a steep cost to robotic technology, and there is a learning curve, so we need to build on this in terms of making rational, data-based decisions,” Parekh added.

A total of 350 patients were involved in the bladder cancer study. Half received the open surgical approach and half received robotic surgery, and they were followed for two to three years so that outcomes could be compared.

“The findings of this study provide high-level evidence to inform a discussion between patients and their physicians regarding the benefits and risks of various approaches for a complex and often morbid surgery, like radical cystectomy,” the researchers said.

But, because robotic surgery is being used in many other organs, including kidney, colorectal, OB/GYN and lung cancer, more studies are needed, Parekh said.

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