Patients undergoing robot-assisted lung surgery fared as well as or better than those treated via widely used minimally invasive techniques, according to study results touted this week by Intuitive Surgical (NSDQ:ISRG).
Researchers in a pair of studies compared 3 types of lung surgeries: robotic-assisted thoracoscopic surgery, minimally invasive video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery (VATS) and open surgery.
The 1st study found potential benefits associated with the robotic procedure, especially in reducing hospital stays, 30-day mortality and the need for postoperative blood transfusion. The 2nd study reported that outcomes were about the same between robotic surgery and minimally invasive VATS, "trending in favor of robotics."
"The [completely portal robotic lobectomy] was superior in several measures compared with open," the authors said in a study published in the April edition of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery.
Both studies compared their robotic surgery outcomes against the Society of Thoracic Surgeons’ national database of more than 5,900 open surgery patients and 4,600 minimally invasive VATS patients. Both sets of researchers noted the limitations of their findings, citing small study sizes and the lack of randomization or case-matching when comparing outcomes.
Nevertheless the authors noted important areas of benefit with robot-assisted lung surgery.
"The patients stayed in the hospital 2 days less after robotic surgery than VATS and 4 days less than after thoracotomy," according to the 1st study, published in the January/February edition of the journal Innovations. "Robotic surgery led to fewer air leaks, intra-operative blood transfusions, need for perioperative bronchoscopy or re-intubation, pneumonias, and atrial arrhythmias compared with thoracotomy
The Intuitive press release is the latest in a string of transmissions that aim to battle some bad press surrounding the company and its da Vinci robot-assisted surgical systems. The California company has been battling doctors who say that robotic surgery is far more expensive yet no better in terms of results compared with minimally invasive surgery.
Intuitive has battled those notions with a slate of studies finding that robotic surgery reduces readmissions and costs associated with hysterectomy, bests open surgery for prostatectomy and more. Meanwhile the company has been plagued by adverse events, recalls, FDA scrutiny, insurance group lawsuits, hospital marketing conflict-of-interest flaps and on.
Wall Street has been falling out of love with the company, once a darling of the medtech stocks, and ISRG shares have lost nearly 25% over the last year. The past month hasn’t been much better, with news of the company’s dismal 1st quarter earnings sending shares down 11% in a single day.