Background: Laparoscopic surgery can be demanding, resulting in longer operating time and a longer time before reaching proficiency compared with open surgery. Robotic assistance allows stereoscopic vision and improves dexterity, potentially leading to faster and safer laparoscopic surgery and a shortening of the learning curve.
Methods: Duration and accuracy were measured in inexperienced participants, performing basic and advanced laparoscopic tasks using both conventional laparoscopy and the daVinci Surgical System.
Results: Eight participants performed 176 laparoscopic tasks. Robotic assistance resulted in faster and more accurate performance of laparoscopic tasks. However, conventional laparoscopy showed faster skill acquisition.
Conclusions: Robotic assistance resulted in faster and more accurate performance of laparoscopic tasks. However, learning curves favored conventional laparoscopy. These data suggest robotic assistance might be most beneficial in inexperienced subjects. The relatively flat learning curve in robot-assisted laparoscopy suggests robotic assistance might be less (or marginally) beneficial in experienced surgeons. This could explain why robotic assistance has failed to show clear benefit in several clinical studies. Extensive conventional laparoscopic training might lead to faster, safer, and less expensive surgery, further marginalizing the role for robotic assistance in laparoscopic surgery.