Embattled robotic surgical devices maker Intuitive Surgical (NSDQ:ISRG) this week released another study comparing its da Vinci surgical suite to open surgery, finding that open surgery results in higher rates of complications and hospital readmissions.
The new findings, published in the November edition of the Journal of Endourology, add to a growing body of research showing that less-invasive robot-assisted operations beat open surgery for a number of procedures.
Intuitive touted the results as evidence of the cost-savings potential of robot-assisted surgery, helping to cut down on the $17.4 billion spent each year in hospital readmissions for Medicare patients alone.
The retrospective study examined data on more than 5,400 patients at more than 400 hospitals, about 20% of which underwent open procedures with the remaining 80% treated with minimally invasive robot-assisted surgeries.
Researchers reported a 23.3% overall complication rate and 5.5% unplanned readmission rate for open prostatectomy, compared with a 5.6% complication rate and 3.5% readmission rate for robot-assisted surgery.
Intuitive Surgical’s minimally invasive surgical system has long bested open surgery for a variety of indications, including prostate cancer and hysterectomy, but the advantages over other minimally invasive techniques is a source of some debate.
Some studies have criticized da Vinci procedures as a costlier type of minimally invasive surgery that confers little benefits over laparoscopic procedures. A study published earlier this year found that robotic surgery complications may be under-reported and therefore less safe than they appear, a conclusion Intuitive called "misleading." Studies published last year raised similar concerns regarding robotic surgery prostatectomies and robotic surgeries to treat endometrial cancer.
Intuitive Surgical has claimed in the past that many of the critical studies are misleading because they compare robotic surgery with laparoscopy rather than open surgery.
The new study results didn’t do much for ISRG shares which were down 0.8% to $358.37 as of about 1:00 pm today.
Intuitive Surgical has been a roller coaster in recent months, facing harsh criticism from analysts and media while facing a raft of patient injury lawsuits accusing the company of pushing surgeons on the company’s flagship da Vinci robot-assisted surgical system before they were properly trained.
The company this month also warned that its da Vinci robot may “stall” during a surgery, a recall that landed Class II status from the FDA.