OBJECTIVE: To compare safety and costs of robotic-assisted and laparoscopic cholecystectomy in patients with symptomatic cholecystolithiasis. BACKGROUND: Technical benefits of robotic-assisted surgery are well documented. However, pressure is currently applied to decrease costs, leading to restriction of development, and implementation of new technologies. So far, no convincing data are available comparing outcome or costs between computer assisted and conventional laparoscopic cholecystectomy. METHODS: A prospective case-matched study was conducted on 50 consecutive patients, who underwent robotic-assisted cholecystectomy (Da Vinci Robot, Intuitive Surgical) between December 2004 and February 2006. These patients were matched 1:1 to 50 patients with conventional laparoscopic cholecystectomy, according to age, gender, American Society of Anesthesiologists score, histology, and surgical experience. Endpoints were complications after surgery (mean follow-up of 12.3 months [SD 1.2]), conversion rates, operative time, and hospital costs (ClinicalTrial.gov ID: NCT00562900). RESULTS: No minor, but 1 major complication occurred in each group (2%). No conversion to open surgery was needed in either group. Operation time (skin-to-skin, 55 minutes vs. 50 minutes, P <0.85) and hospital stay (2.6 days vs. 2.8 days) were similar. Overall hospital costs were significantly higher for robotic-assisted cholecystectomy $7985.4 (SD 1760.9) versus $6255.3 (SD 1956.4), P <0.001, with a raw difference of $1730.1(95% CI 991.4-2468.7) and a difference adjusted for confounders of $1606.4 (95% CI 1076.7-2136.2). This difference was mainly related to the amortization and consumables of the robotic system. CONCLUSIONS: Robotic-assisted cholecystectomy is safe and, therefore, a valuable approach. Costs of robots, however, are high and do not justify the use of this technology considering the lack of benefits for patients. A reduction of acquisition and maintenance costs for the robotic system is a prerequisite for large-scale adoption and implementation.
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