Prostate cancer surgeries performed by robots

ROBOTIC surgery gives prostate cancer patients better health results, reduces their hospital stay and can save the health system money, a large-scale Victorian study shows.
Not only did men who had the robotic-assisted surgery have their hospital stay cut, they did not require blood transfusions and were less likely to need follow-up cancer treatment.

The Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre study, comparing the results of more than 5000 men in Victorian public hospitals who had robotic or open surgery between 2010-2013, found the hi-tech surgery could also become cost- effective.

Robotic surgery director Associate Professor Declan Murphy said the surgery was commonplace in the private health system, but it had remained out of reach for public patients until 2010 when Peter Mac received the robot device through a philanthropic ­donation.

The Department of Health-funded research found 15 per cent of men who had traditional surgery required a blood transfusion, but none of the 284 men who had the robotic surgery required one.

“We found that patients in the public system that had traditional open surgery spent almost five days in hospital compared with 1.4 days for patients who had robotic surgery,” Prof Murphy said.

The patients who had conventional surgery were also more likely to require additional cancer treatment.

The findings, presented to the American Urological Association annual meeting overnight, also looked at whether robotic surgery could be cost effective in the public health system.

The robot costs up to $3 million to buy and $200,000 a year for maintenance,

“If you factor in the cost of the robot, running it for six to seven years, repairs and equipment, and you offset it against the reduction in bed days, blood transfusions and readmissions, it becomes cost neutral at 140 cases per year,” Prof Murphy said.

The research found that to be financially viable, Victoria would need three centres carrying out 140 operations a year.

In 2013, there were 401 public operations performed across 20 different hospitals, which indicated services would need to be centralised and funded accordingly.

The Department of Health said it would consider the report’s findings.