Robot-assisted Versus Laparoscopic Surgery for Rectal Cancer: A Phase II Open Label Prospective Randomized Controlled Trial

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Objective:The phase II randomized controlled trial aimed to compare the outcomes of robot-assisted surgery with those of laparoscopic surgery in the patients with rectal cancer.Background:The feasibility of robot-assisted surgery over laparoscopic surgery for rectal cancer has not been established yet.Methods:Between February 21, 2012 and March 11, 2015, patients with rectal cancer (cT1-3NxM0) were enrolled. Patients were randomized 1:1 to either robot-assisted or laparoscopic surgery, and stratified per sex and administration of preoperative chemoradiotherapy. The primary outcome was the quality of total mesorectal excision (TME) specimen. Secondary outcomes were the circumferential and distal resection margins, the number of harvested lymph nodes, morbidity, bowel function recovery, and quality of life.Results:A total of 163 patients were randomly assigned to the robot-assisted (n = 81) and laparoscopic (n = 82) surgery groups, and 139 patients were eligible for the analyses (73 vs 66, respectively). One patient (1.2%) in the robot-assisted group was converted to open surgery. The TME quality did not differ between the robot-assisted and laparoscopic groups (80.3% vs 78.1% complete TME, respectively; 18.2% vs 21.9% nearly complete TME, respectively; P = 0.599). The resection margins, number of harvested lymph nodes, morbidity, and bowel function recovery also were not significantly different. On analyzing quality of life, scores of the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life (EORTC QLQ C30) and EORTC QLQ CR38 were similar in the 2 groups, but in the EORTC QLQ CR 38 questionnaire, sexual function 12 months postoperatively was better in the robot-assisted group than in the laparoscopic group (P = 0.03).Conclusions:Robot-assisted surgery in rectal cancer showed TME quality comparable with that of laparoscopic surgery, and it demonstrated similar postoperative morbidity, bowel function recovery, and quality of life.

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