Robotic-Assisted Lung Surgery Offers Improved Patient Outcomes

A new study comparing open surgery, video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS), and robotic-assisted surgery to remove diseased lung tissue found that robotic-assisted surgery is associated with significantly lower death rates, lower overall complication rates, and shorter hospital stays compared with open surgery. Researchers also concluded that robotic-assisted surgery is an appropriate alternative to VATS.

The study was published in the October issue of The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, and evaluated different techniques for performing lobectomy (removal of a lobe of the lung) and segmentectomy (removal of a section of a lobe of the lung). These are common surgical procedures to remove portions of the lung that contain non-small cell lung cancer. Eighty-five to 90 percent of all lung cancer cases in the United States involve non-small cell lung cancer. Lung cancer is the most common cancer worldwide.

In a traditional open thoracic surgery, the surgeon makes a long incision in the patient’s chest or side and spreads the ribs apart. In contrast, robotic-assisted and VATS procedures are minimally invasive and require only a few small incisions made between the ribs. Data presented by the authors shows that during the study period only 38% of patients received a minimally invasive VATS procedure, with the majority of patients receiving an open procedure.

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Dr. Kent and his colleagues reviewed State Inpatient Databases and identified 33,095 patients in eight states who underwent open surgery, VATS, or robotic-assisted surgery. Compared to traditional open surgery, robotic-assisted surgery was associated with:

  • Significantly reduced death rate (0.2% vs. 2.0%, p = 0.016)
  • Shorter hospital stays (5.9 days vs. 8.2 days, p = 0.0001)
  • Lower overall complication rate (43.8% vs. 54.1%, p = 0.003)

The results also indicated that the death rate, length of hospital stays and overall complication rate for robotic-assisted surgery were similar to or better than VATS.

Researchers noted the rise in use of robotic-assisted thoracic surgery in recent years. Robotic-assisted surgery increased over the study period, growing from 0.2% of all procedures in 2008 to 3.4% of procedures in 2010.

For more information about clinical evidence related to da Vinci Surgery, please visit

1. Kent M, Wang T, Whyte R, Curran T, Flores R, Gangadharan S. Open, Video-Assisted Thoracic Surgery, and Robotic Lobectomy: Review of a National Database. Ann Thorac Surg. 2013 Oct 1.

2. American Cancer Society. “Lung Cancer (Non-Small Cell).” Available from:

3. World Cancer Research Fund International. “Worldwide Cancer Statistics.” Available from:

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