The robotic approach in surgery is becoming more widely used in many subspecialties. Robot-assisted laparoscopic procedures provide potential improvements in clinical outcomes due to improved visualization and enhanced surgical ergonomics. In this study, we measured and compared outcomes of robot-assisted laparoscopic cholecystectomy with the conventional laparoscopic technique, as well as the implications for the training of surgical residents.
We compared a total of 244 patients undergoing minimally invasive cholecystectomies performed by one surgeon between July 2013 and June 2016 examining relevant clinical outcomes including operative room (OR) time, length of hospital stay (LOS), readmission to the hospital, post-operative emergency department (ED) visits, and post-operative pain between laparoscopic single-incision cholecystectomy and robot-assisted laparoscopic cholecystectomy. A chi-square test and Student’s t-test were used to compare these variables between the two groups. Propensity score matching (PSM) was used using gender, age, and body mass index (BMI) as variables.
From the total number of procedures of 244, 144 were included in the laparoscopic group and 100 in the robot-assisted group. The robot-assisted patients had a shorter post-operative LOS (mean: 0.8 vs. 1.6 days; p = 0.002). There was no significant difference in the OR time (mean: 64.8 vs. 65.0 minutes; p = 0.945), readmissions (4.0% vs. 3.5%; p = 0.830), post-operative ED visits (7.0% vs. 7.6%; p = 0.851), or post-operative pain (13.0% vs. 21.3%; p= 0.137). Robotic cholecystectomy patients were younger (mean: 46 vs. 52 years; p = 0.023) and had lower BMIs (mean: 31 vs. 33; p = 0.038). Because of these differences, we compared the two groups using PSM that confirmed the shorter LOS in the robotic group (mean: 0.9 vs. 1.9; p = 0.009).
These results demonstrate that robotic cholecystectomies can reduce LOS for patients undergoing laparoscopic cholecystectomy, without increasing OR time. Increased surgeon experience with robotic procedures and improved OR efficiency will allow greater opportunities for resident participation. Robotic training curricula need to be employed and objectively evaluated to improve surgical resident skill acquisition and provide earlier and progressive clinical participation in robotic procedures.