Attaining Proficiency in Robotic-Assisted Minimally Invasive Esophagectomy While Maximizing Safety During Procedure Development

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Robotic-assisted minimally invasive esophagectomy (RAMIE) is an emerging complex operation with limited reports detailing morbidity, mortality, and requirements for attaining proficiency. Our objective was to develop a standardized RAMIE technique, evaluate procedure safety, and assess outcomes using a dedicated operative team and 2-surgeon approach.


We conducted a study of sequential patients undergoing RAMIE from January 25, 2011, to May 5, 2014. Intermedian demographics and perioperative data were compared between sequential halves of the experience using the Wilcoxon rank sum test and the Fischer exact test. Median operative time was tracked over successive 15-patient cohorts.


One hundred of 313 esophageal resections performed at our institution underwent RAMIE during the study period. A dedicated team including 2 attending surgeons and uniform anesthesia and OR staff was established. There were no significant differences in age, sex, histology, stage, induction therapy, or risk class between the 2 halves of the study. Estimated blood loss, conversions, operative times, and overall complications significantly decreased. The median resected lymph nodes increased but was not statistically significant. Median operative time decreased to approximately 370 minutes between the 30th and the 45th cases. There were no emergent intraoperative complications, and the anastomotic leak rate was 6% (6/100). The 30-day mortality was 0% (0/100), and the 90-day mortality was 1% (1/100).


Excellent perioperative and short-term patient outcomes with minimal mortality can be achieved using a standardized RAMIE procedure and a dedicated team approach. The structured process described may serve as a model to maximize patients' safety during development and assessment of complex novel procedures.

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