Initiating a robotics program is complex, in regards to achieving favourable outcomes, effectively utilizing an expensive surgical tool, and granting console privileges to surgeons. We report the implementation of a community-based robotics program among minimally-invasive surgery (MIS) urologists with and without formal robotics training.
From August 2008 to December 2010 at Kaiser Permanente Southern California, 2 groups of urologists performing robot-assisted radical prostatectomy (RARP) were followed since the time of robot acquisition at a single institution. The robotics group included 4 surgeons with formal robotics training and the laparoscopic group with another 4 surgeons who were robot-naïve, but skilled in laparoscopy. The laparoscopic group underwent an initial 7-day mentorship period. Surgical proficiency was measured by various operative and pathological outcome variables. Data were evaluated using comparative statistics and multivariate analysis.
A total of 420 and 549 RARPs were performed by the robotics and laparoscopic groups, respectively. Operative times were longer in the laparoscopic group (p = 0.002), but estimated blood loss was similar. The robotics group had a significantly better overall positive surgical margin rate of 19.9% compared to the laparoscopic group (27.8%) (p = 0.005). Both groups showed improvements in operative and pathological parameters as they accrued experience, and achieved similar results towards the end of the study.
Robot-naïve laparoscopic surgeons may achieve similar outcomes to robotic surgeons relatively early after a graduated mentorship period. This study may apply to a community-based practice in which multiple urologists with varied training backgrounds are granted robot privileges.