Robotic Surgery: Applications, Limitations, and Impact on Surgical Education

Bishoy Morris, MBBCH (Hons)

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Limitations of Robotic Surgery

Although rapidly developing, robotic surgical technology has not achieved its full potential owing to a few limitations. Cost-effectiveness is a major issue[43]; 2 recent studies comparing robotic procedures with conventional operations showed that although the absolute cost for robotic operations was higher, the major part of the increased cost was attributed to the initial cost of purchasing the robot (estimated at $1,200,000) and yearly maintenance ($100,000).[43,44] Both factors are expected to decrease as robotic systems gain more widespread acceptance. However, it is conceivable that further technical advances may at first drive prices even higher.[45] Decreasing operative time and hospital stay will also contribute to the cost-effectiveness of robotic surgery.[44]

Other drawbacks to robotic surgery include the bulkiness of the robotic equipment currently in use.[1,7] Lack of tactile and force feedback to the surgeon is another major problem,[1,19] for which haptics (ie, systems that recreate the "feel" of tissues through force feedback) offers a promising, although as yet unrealized, solution.[46,47]

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