Many women today are hearing about the claimed advantages of robotic surgery for hysterectomy, thanks to widespread marketing and advertising. Robotic surgery is not the only or the best minimally invasive approach for hysterectomy. Nor is it the most cost-efficient. It is important to separate the marketing hype from the reality when considering the best surgical approach for hysterectomies.
At a time when there is a demand for more fiscal responsibility and transparency in health care, the use of expensive medical technology should be questioned when less-costly alternatives provide equal or better patient outcomes. Hysterectomy is one of the most common major surgeries in the US and costs our health care system more than $5 billion a year.
At a price of more than $1.7 million per robot, $125,000 in annual maintenance costs, and up to $2,000 per surgery for the cost of single-use instruments, robotic surgery is the most expensive approach. A recent Journal of the American Medical Association study found that the percentage of hysterectomies performed robotically has jumped from less than 0.5% to nearly 10% over the past three years. A study of over 264,000 hysterectomy patients in 441 hospitals also found that robotics added an average of $2,000 per procedure without any demonstrable benefit.
Our patients deserve and need factual information about all of their treatment options, including costs, so that they can make truly informed health care decisions. Patients should be advised that robotic hysterectomy is best used for unusual and complex clinical conditions in which improved outcomes over standard minimally invasive approaches have been demonstrated.
I guess the word didn't make it to Great Falls, Montana. Here's the website for Great Falls OBGYN Associates, whose providers are members of ACOG.
In addition to links on the home page to PR reports on the da Vinci surgical robot, the practice offers the following service offering to patients:
da Vinci Single-Site hysterectomy is available for benign (non-cancerous) conditions. Your uterus can be removed minimally invasively through a small incision in your belly button. da Vinci Single-Site technology allows for virtually scarless results.
Strikingly, the Great Falls OBGYN Associates web page on clinical offerings sends patients to two Intuitive Surgical sites for "Important Safety Information, including surgical risks, indications, and considerations and contraindications for use," and ends with the following:
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