The trial team found that having robotic assisted surgery did not reduce the risk of needing open surgery for rectal cancer. There was no difference between robotic assisted surgery and key hole surgery in terms of treating rectal cancer.
The researchers published the results in 2017. This trial took place worldwide. It was a phase 3 trial
466 people joined the trial and had surgery. People were put into 1 of 2 treatment groups at random
- 236 had keyhole surgery as their planned surgery
- 230 had robotic surgery as their planned surgery
40 surgeons took part in the trial. They had varying levels of experience with robotic assisted surgery.
The researchers looked at the how many times the surgeons switched from the planned surgery to open surgery.
This happened in:
- 28 people out of 236 who had keyhole surgery
- 19 people out of 230 who had robotic assisted surgery
These numbers are different, but the researchers say the difference between the 2 groups is not statistically significant. This means it could have happened by chance.
They also looked at:
- length of hospital stay
- quality of life
They found no difference in either of these between the 2 groups.
The researchers looked at complications people had during surgery, for example having a bleed. And after surgery, for example:
- diarrhoea or constipation
- bladder problems
They didn’t find a difference in complication rates between those who had robotic assisted surgery and those who had keyhole surgery.
Costs of surgery
The researchers looked at the cost of robotic assisted and key hole surgery. Robotic assisted surgery was on average £1,000 more expensive because the operations took longer and the robotic instruments were more expensive.
The trial team concluded that in this trial, having robotic assisted surgery did not reduce the risk of having open surgery for rectal cancer.
But researchers say there were some limitations to this conclusion. The surgeons had varying levels of experience with robotic assisted surgery. Most were very well trained to do keyhole surgery but some were still learning the robotic surgery technique.
So, the researchers suggest that there is no advantage to having robotic surgery when the surgeons have different levels of experience with the technique.
This trial has increased knowledge about what works and what doesn’t for rectal cancer.
We have based this summary on information from the research team. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed
) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team who did the research. We have not analysed the data ourselves.