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Volume 6, Pages 2531-2541
Review Article

Tips on Establishing a Robotics Program in an Academic Setting

Department of Urology, University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA 22908, USA

Received 16 November 2005; Revised 9 December 2005; Accepted 9 December 2005

Academic Editor: William D. Steers

Copyright © 2006 William D.¬†Steers.


Over the past 5 years, robotic-assisted laparoscopic surgery has gone from being a novelty to an accepted approach for intra-abdominal and pelvic surgery. Driving this trend has been the large number of robotic-assisted laparoscopic prostatectomies performed throughout the U.S. Nearly a quarter of the prostatectomies done for prostate cancer in the U.S. in 2006 will use robotic assistance, yet reports fail to confirm cost effectiveness. The most important predictor of a successful program is a champion at the institution. Studies have demonstrated safety and immediate benefits with regard to reduced surgical morbidity such as pain, loss of work, quality of life, and blood loss for a variety of surgeries patients. Specific to prostatectomy for cancer, long-term data on biochemical (PSA) failures and cancer cures, as well as validated secondary outcomes for continence and potency, are still unavailable. Benefits accrue for the surgeon as well with improved ergonomics and potential extension of a surgical career. Yet, enthusiasm for robotics must be tempered by this lack of data and economic limitations. However, if a thoughtful and thorough process in initiating a robotic program is undertaken, the risks to the institution can be minimized. With proper training, the risk to the patient is reduced and with due diligence with regard to market and operative resources, the risk to the surgeon can be eliminated. This report reviews the steps to assess, plan, initiate, and maintain a robotics program at an academic institution with the hope that other programs can benefit from lessons acquired by early adopters of this expensive technology.