Funds pit surgeons against robots

PATIENTS needing radical prostatectomy are pushing for robotic rather than open surgery, but Australian experts are divided on whether it should be publicly funded.

Professor Mark Frydenberg, chair of the department of urology at Monash Medical Centre, said patients were requesting robotic radical prostatectomy (RRP) because of high-profile media cases, sometimes with unrealistic expectations.

But he said the technology was expensive as the machines cost $3 million and annual service $300,000, plus fewer cases of RRP compared to open surgery could be performed on any one day.

“It’s not inexpensive to do the [robotic] operation, so you’ve got to be very certain that you are going to get major length of stay savings to make up for that. I’m not sure we’ve really got the evidence that we