Robotic rectal cancer surgery does not appear technically easier than standard keyhole surgery. The researchers, in this trial, judged this by measuring the need to ‘convert’ a keyhole procedure to open surgery when operating. This NIHR-funded trial also found that robotic surgery produced similar clinical results to standard laparoscopic (keyhole) surgery in treating rectal cancer.
In the trial, 28 out of 230 patients (12%) who received keyhole surgery were converted to open surgery, compared with 19 out of 236 (8%) who received robotic surgery. This difference did not achieve statistical significance. There were also no differences in the likelihood of removing the whole tumour, surgery-related complications and bladder or sexual function. Longer-term outcomes such as three-year recurrence and overall survival were also similar.
These results suggest robotic rectal surgery, which costs £1,000 more than laparoscopic surgery due to ongoing equipment costs and longer operating time, may not be cost-effective (Source: NIHR).
The full details of the trial are available from the NIHR
Jayne, D. | 2019| Robotic-assisted Surgery Compared With Laparoscopic Resection Surgery for Rectal Cancer: The ROLARR RCT | Efficacy and Mechanism Evaluation | DOI: 10.3310/eme06100
Robotic rectal cancer surgery is gaining popularity, but there are limited data about its safety and efficacy. Objective To undertake an evaluation of robotic compared with laparoscopic rectal cancer surgery to determine its safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness.
This was a multicentre, randomised trial comparing robotic with laparoscopic rectal resection in patients with rectal adenocarcinoma.
The study was conducted at 26 sites across 10 countries and involved 40 surgeons. Participants The study involved 471 patients with rectal adenocarcinoma. Recruitment took place from 7 January 2011 to 30 September 2014 with final follow-up on 16 June 2015. Interventions Robotic and laparoscopic rectal cancer resections were performed by high anterior resection, low anterior resection or abdominoperineal resection. There were 237 patients randomised to robotic and 234 to laparoscopic surgery. Follow-up was at 30 days, at 6 months and annually until 3 years after surgery.
Main outcome measures The primary outcome was conversion to laparotomy. Secondary end points included intra- and postoperative complications, pathological outcomes, quality of life (QoL) [measured using the Short Form questionnaire-36 items version 2 (SF-36v2) and the Multidimensional Fatigue Inventory-20 (MFI-20)], bladder and sexual dysfunction [measured using the International Prostatic Symptom Score (I-PSS), the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) and the Female Sexual Function Index (FSFI)], and oncological outcomes. An economic evaluation considered the costs of robotic and laparoscopic surgery, including primary and secondary care costs up to 6 months post operation.
Results Among 471 randomised patients [mean age 64.9 years, standard deviation (SD) 11.0 years; 320 (67.9%) men], 466 (98.9%) patients completed the study. Data were analysed on an intention-to-treat basis. The overall rate of conversion to laparotomy was 10.1% and occurred in 19 (8.1%) patients in the robotic-assisted group and in 28 (12.2%) patients in the conventional laparoscopic group. Of the nine prespecified secondary end points, including circumferential resection margin positivity, intraoperative complications, postoperative complications, plane of surgery, 30-day mortality and bladder and sexual dysfunction, none showed a statistically significant difference between the groups. No difference between the treatment groups was observed for longer-term outcomes, disease-free and overall survival (OS). Males were at a greater risk of local recurrence than females and had worse OS rates. The costs of robotic and laparoscopic surgery, excluding capital costs, were £11,853 (SD £2940) and £10,874 (SD £2676) respectively.
There is insufficient evidence to conclude that robotic rectal surgery compared with laparoscopic rectal surgery reduces the risk of conversion to laparotomy. There were no statistically significant differences in resection margin positivity, complication rates or QoL at 6 months between the treatment groups. Robotic rectal cancer surgery was on average £980 more expensive than laparoscopic surgery, even when the acquisition and maintenance costs for the robot were excluded. Future work The lower rate of conversion to laparotomy in males undergoing robotic rectal cancer surgery deserves further investigation. The introduction of new robotic systems into the market may alter the cost-effectiveness of robotic rectal cancer surgery.
The full article is available from PubMed