From the Journals

Evidence weak for robotic inguinal hernia surgery



– Ajita Prabhu, MD, is intrigued enough by robotic inguinal hernia surgery to study it extensively. Her verdict: In general, it’s just not ready for prime time.

Randy Dotinga/MDedge News

Dr. Ajita Prabhu

“Right now, I don’t think I have any compelling evidence to tell a laparoscopic surgeon with good surgical times and good outcomes to convert to robotic surgery,” said Dr. Prabhu, an associate professor of surgery at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, in a presentation the Annual Minimally Invasive Surgery Symposium by Global Academy for Medical Education.

According to Dr. Prabhu, the number of robotic inguinal hernia surgeries in the United States has shot up over the past 8 years, but research into the technique has remained sparse and retrospective.

“There’s not a lot out there,” she said. “If I stood here and went through every one of those studies detail by detail, I think I could do it in 15 minutes.”

It is true, she said, that robotic surgery has possible advantages, such as better ergonomics for surgeons and, perhaps, a shorter learning curve than laparoscopy. Still, she said, “for those of us who grew up on it [laparoscopy], it’s a lot less hassle for us to get in and get out and get the job done,” even though the technique can hard to both learn and teach.

Robotic surgery has some disadvantages too, she said. “We’re finding additional evidence that it adds OR [operating room] time, and it’s expensive.” She pointed to an analysis that determined the average total cost for robotic unilateral inguinal hernia repair is $5,517 versus $3,269 for laparoscopic procedures (P less than .001). The cost difference is driven by fixed costs, particularly medical device expenses (Surg Endosc. 2018 Dec 7. doi: 10.1007/s00464-018-06606-9).

Moving forward, she said, robotic inguinal hernia surgery should be tested so “we can make sure it’s actually better, not just cool. We need to be able to justify our utilization.”

To that end, a multicenter, randomized, controlled study is now comparing robotic with laparoscopic surgery in inguinal hernias with 50 patients in each group, Dr. Prabhu said. Her institution, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, is one of the centers in the study (

In an interview, Dr. Prabhu said the study just finished enrollment; publication is expected within the next few months.

Dr. Prabhu disclosed relationships with Intuitive Surgical (research support and honoraria), Bard Davol (honoraria) and Medtronic (advisory board).

Global Academy for Medical Education and this news organization are owned by the same parent company.

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