Utilization of the Robotic Surgical Platform for Radical Nephrectomy: A National Comparison of Trends for Open, Laparoscopic and Robotic Approaches

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The robotic platform in surgery has been widely adopted as it facilitates complex surgical reconstructions such as renorrhaphy during partial nephrectomy. Although the robotic approach to radical nephrectomy has higher costs and a lack of perioperative and oncologic evidence, the use of robotic platforms for radical nephrectomy is increasing. We evaluated a national database to explain the increased use of robotic radical nephrectomy despite a lack of perioperative and oncologic evidence.


The current retrospective cohort study used NIS (Nationwide Inpatient Sample) to identify patients who underwent radical nephrectomy from the last quarter of 2008 through 2010. We investigated hospital and patient specific factors associated with the robotic approach to radical nephrectomy, including hospital volume of robotic partial nephrectomy and robot-assisted radical prostatectomy.


Of the 124,462 radical nephrectomies 4.7% were performed robotically. The median cost of robotic radical nephrectomy was $1,324 to $2,759 higher than that of open and laparoscopic radical nephrectomy. No differences in complications, length of stay, blood transfusion rates or mortality were found between laparoscopic and robotic radical nephrectomy. However the rate of open and laparoscopic radical nephrectomy decreased during the study period while the use of robotic radical nephrectomy increased almost fourfold. At hospitals in the middle or highest tertile of robotic partial nephrectomy the procedure was more likely to be performed. Patients younger than 60 years were less likely to undergo the surgery than those older than 80 years (p <0.001). Robotic radical nephrectomy was less likely to be done at large and medium medical centers (p <0.05). The hospital volume of robot-assisted radical prostatectomy did not predict that of robotic radical nephrectomy.


Although increased median costs and equivalent outcomes (perioperative and oncologic) question the benefit of robotic radical nephrectomy, its use is increasing. Robotic radical nephrectomy is more likely to be done at medium-high volume robotic centers for partial nephrectomy. This nationwide overtreatment and inefficiency may reflect the use of robotic radical nephrectomy as a training tool to facilitate the robotic learning curve and the proliferation of robotic partial nephrectomy.

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