Several months ago, I wrote a post on the use of surgical robots to do radical prostatectomies and suggested that the main impetus for using robots was marketing, that the incremental medical value of such instruments had not yet been demonstrated.
In the May 2007 issue of Nature Clinical Practice - Urology, the journal's editor-in-chief, Peter Scardino, makes the same points, but offers substantial more scientific support that I could ever muster and certainly brings more credibility to the issue than I offer. Here are some excerpts:
Patients . . . are . . . seduced by the notion that the machine eliminates human error.
The fundamental measures of quality for any medical treatment are its safety and efficacy, which require meticulous documentation in well-designed clinical trials. Where are the trials that show superior outcomes with [robots]?
Studies that report better outcomes with [robots] that with open prostatectomy are limited to single-institution or single-surgeon experiences . . . that claim superior results compared with their own previous experience.
In spite of the evidence to date, enthusiasts are convinced that [robots are] superior to both laparoscopic and open prostatectomy techniques.
Technological advancements, no matter how compelling, are only as good as our ability to use them prudently and wisely.