Implementation of Robotic Surgery in a Pediatric Hospital: Lessons Learned

Since the late 1980s, minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has been one of the fastest growing approaches for surgical procedures. However, its development has reached a plateau. One of the reasons is the difficulty to operate on more complex cases, such as neonatal procedures. Some experts report outstanding outcomes for complex operations, but not all surgeons may be able to achieve the same results. Is robotic surgery (RS) a solution?

To answer this question, we reviewed the current indications of RS for the pediatric population and the steps needed to incorporate the robotic surgical system in a children's hospital. We reported our experience and presented our first results and the encountered problems.

After a year and a half of experience with RS, several lessons were learned: (1) the current robotic surgical system cannot yet be considered a replacement to conventional MIS, (2) docking is less time consuming than expected, (3) postoperative pain is significantly decreased, (4) the absence of haptic feedback is still a matter of concern, and (5) costs can be afforded by sharing the RS with adult surgeons.

Based on our experience, the advantages seem to outweigh the drawbacks as it encourages team building and increases overall comfort for the surgeon. However, the current literature fails to prove that RS gives better results for pediatric patients. New advances in technology will probably help to overcome the encountered difficulties and the high costs.

Journal of laparoendoscopic & advanced surgical techniques. Part A. 2018 Sep 14 [Epub ahead of print]

Henri Steyaert, Erwin Van Der Veken, Luc Joyeux

Department of Pediatric Surgery, Queen Fabiola Children's Hospital (HUDERF) , Universite Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Brussels, Belgium .