From the Journals

Practice makes better: Robotic lobectomy can shorten OR times



A new single-surgeon study suggests that the experience gained from performing more than 60 robot-assisted thoracoscopic (RATS) pulmonary lobectomies could allow surgeons to reach “mastery” and shave about 90 minutes off adjusted operating time.

Minimally invasive robotic durgery with the da Vinci Surgical System. Master Video/Shutterstock

The findings provide “further support to the adaptation of formalized robotic training and credentialing procedures,” wrote the authors of the retrospective, single-center study, which was presented at the 2018 Academic Surgical Congress and published in Surgery.

According to the study authors, advantages of robotic surgery, compared with thoracoscopic surgery, include “3-dimensional visualization, enhanced maneuverability in small spaces, and the ease of the hilar and mediastinal dissection. Disadvantages include the lack of haptic feedback, increased cost, and increased operative time.”

In the new study, the authors, led by thoracic surgeon Brian N. Arnold, MD, of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., attempted to quantify the learning curve in RATS pulmonary lobectomies by using a more “statistically rigorous” technique than previous studies.

The study tracked 101 of 116 consecutive patients who underwent RATS pulmonary lobectomy at a single unnamed center from 2010 to 2016. Some patients, such as those who underwent a right middle lobectomy that is considered an easier procedure, were excluded. All patients were treated by the same unidentified surgeon.

Researchers identified three phases of the RATS learning curve: cases 1-22, cases 23-63, and cases 64-101.

On average, the patients were aged 69 years; 52% were female. Overall, a third of the patients developed complications.

After controlling for various factors, the researchers found that adjusted operating time and estimated blood loss were statistically different between the first and second phases (P less than .05 and P = .016, respectively). They were also different between the first and third phases (P less than .05 and P = .006, respectively).

Specifically, operating time in the first phase was a mean of 256 minutes versus 195 minutes in the second phase (P = .0002) and 168 minutes in the third phase (P less than .0001). Blood loss was 200 mL (interquartile range, 150-300 mL) in the first phase versus 150 mL (IQR, 75-200 mL; P = .0219) in the second phase and 150 mL (IQR, 100-150 mL; P = .0096) in the third phase.

The researchers found no statistically significant evidence that the surgeon’s growing experience affected length of stay, postoperative complications, chest tube duration, or conversion rate. No patients died within 30 or 90 days.

The researchers also compared operating time, length of stay, and complication rate in the RATS procedures with those in video-assisted thoracoscopic (VATS) lobectomies performed at the same institution from 2008 to 2014. There was only a statistically significant difference in mean operating time (RATS, 319 minutes; VATS, 253 minutes; P less than .001)

The study authors noted that the surgeon had extensive previous experience with VATS procedures. “Therefore, for better or for worse, the results may not apply to surgeons without this experience who move from open surgery to robotic surgery.”

Study funding and disclosures were not reported.

SOURCE: Arnold BN et al. Surgery. 2019 Feb;165(2):450-4.

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