Archive December 2019 XX, No. 12

Wanted: An Abdominal Robot For Same-Day Surgery

Here's an update on the quest for smaller, less expensive robots tailored to outpatient facilities.

Joe Paone

Joe Paone


HELP AT A COST Robots for abdominal surgeries can improve performance and outcomes, but also increase per-case costs compared to laparoscopy.

Intuitive Surgical's da Vinci robot, which sells for $1.5 to $2 million and costs about $300,000 a year to maintain, continues to dominate abdominal robotic surgery. Nimbler, lower-priced systems, in various stages of development (see "Da Vinci Alternatives" on page 56), have yet to gain much if any traction in the U.S. market. That's likely to change in the coming years — as will the cost of entry for abdominal robotics.

"Competitors are trying to keep their price points closer to $1 million. That's still pricey, but over time competing companies will lower their prices as they get into larger production runs," says Roger Smith, PhD, chief scientist at AdventHealth Nicholson Center in Celebration, Fla.

"Robots are certainly going to be more popular and numerous, and like anything with technology, they'll get cheaper, smaller, easier," adds Dmitry Oleynikov, MD, FACS, professor in the Department of Surgery at the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Medicine in Omaha.

"Ultimately, this technology will let surgeons do more audacious and complex surgeries without big incisions."

Dr. Oleynikov says robots are being used for "just about every single abdominal operation you can think of" in inpatient settings. "For outpatient surgical cases," he says, "things like inguinal hernia, umbilical hernia, gallbladder — fairly straightforward, low-risk procedures — are being done with robots."

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