Robot-Assisted Prostate Surgery Linked to Problems

Study finds potential issue with non-invasive surgery option
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 14, 2009 6:28 AM CDT
In this Oct. 10, 2009, photo a billboard advertising robotic assisted surgery hangs outside Fenway Park in Boston.   (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
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(Newser) – Men who undergo minimally invasive, robot-assisted prostate surgery were more than twice as likely to suffer from impotence and incontinence a year and a half later, compared to those receiving conventional surgery, a new Harvard study has found. Some 4.7% of those treated with laparoscopic surgery, using remote-controlled techniques, developed the problems, compared to 2.1% of those treated without them.

But the now-dominant robot-assisted procedure had advantages as well: patients were out of the hospital a day sooner, and had fewer short-term complications or respiratory problems. Both procedures were equally effective at controlling cancer, and the study’s lead author says the rapid growth of laparoscopic surgery proves that consumers are highly susceptible to marketing campaigns for expensive new treatments, even when they haven’t been proven more effective.