Robotic Surgery for Prostate Cancer Becoming More Common

Robot assisted radical prostatectomy cost was higher than traditional methods but decreased during recent study

(RxWiki News) The prevalence and costs of new health care procedures constantly change as new techniques emerge. A new study examined one new treatment for prostate cancer.

The study examined use of a new, robot-assisted surgical method that can be used in men with prostate cancer.

The researchers found that use of this method — called robot-assisted radical prostatectomy — increased dramatically during the 2000s, but the cost for the treatment remained high.

"Ask your surgeon about emerging prostate surgery methods."

Radical prostatectomy (RARP) — a treatment prostate cancer patients sometimes need — involves the removal of the prostate gland.

According to the Mayo Clinic, in robot-assisted radical prostatectomy (RARP), the surgeon uses a robotic arm and computer monitor to complete the procedure. In other, non-RARP methods — like open or laparoscopic radical prostatectomy — the surgeon uses either a larger incision or small tools and a video camera.

The authors of this new study, which was led by Steven L. Chang, MD, of the Harvard Medical School in Boston, wanted to explore the use of RARP and how its adoption might affect patients.

To do so, the study authors used data from the national Premier Hospital Database to identify 489,369 men with prostate cancer who underwent some form of radical prostatectomy in the US between 2003 and 2010.

Of these men, almost a third (150,921) underwent RARP. Dr. Chang and team found no demographic differences between the men who underwent RARP versus non-RARP types of radical prostatectomy.

Dr. Chang and team found that, during the study period, the prevalence of RARP increased. In 2003, 0.7 percent of surgeons reported performing RARP, a number which increased to 42 percent by 2010.

Surgeons who performed more than 24 radical prostatectomies a year — considered high-volume surgeons — were more likely to adopt the RARP method.

The study authors noted that RARP was more expensive than traditional methods and that its increase in popularity contributed to a 40 percent increase in the amount of money spent on prostate cancer surgeries each year.

However, the cost for RARP declined over the study period. In 2003, the treatment cost was $16,388 per case but stayed stable at just over $10,000 per case during the last years of the study. The costs for non-RARP surgeries hovered at just below $8,000 per case until the last two years of the study period, when these treatments cost almost $9,000 per case.

It is important to note that this study did not measure how the adoption of RARP has affected patients. Further research is needed to better the understand potential risks and benefits of this method of radical prostatectomy.

The study was published Aug. 26 in BJU International.

One of the study authors reported serving as a consultant for a number of organizations, including GenomeDx, Myriad and Sanofi-Aventis.

Review Date: 
August 21, 2014