Robot-assisted hysterectomy became 20 times more common between 2007 and 2010.
Use of robotic assistance devices that let surgeons sit remotely and perform surgeries via a 3-D monitor and a series of joysticks and buttons was approved by the FDA in 2005.
Since then -- despite costing more than $1 million to purchase -- assimilation of these machines into operating rooms has been rapid. Especially by the standards of often slow-to-adapt U.S. health care systems.
Of 264,758 people who underwent hysterectomy for benign reasons in the U.S. between 2007 and 2010, the number of surgeons invoking robotic assistance increased from 0.5% in 2007 to 9.5% in 2010, according to new data today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
But since 2005 we've had little data on whether these robots were actually improving care and/or saving money. Which makes it especially interesting that so many for-profit hospitals did decide to invest in them.
While the process looks extremely impressive/progressive and leaves smaller scars than having an open surgery, the robotic surgeries actually don't seem to be appreciably better in terms of complications or outcomes, according to the JAMA study. They also end up costing a lot more. A robot-assisted hysterectomy costs, on average, $8,854, where traditional open and laparoscopic hysterectomies average $6,712 and $6,671, respectively.