Background Function-preserving minimally invasive pancreatectomy is thought to be an ideal approach for pancreatic benign and borderline malignant lesions requiring pancreatectomy. However, it is not that easy to accomplish this goal with the conventional laparoscopic approach. It requires extensive surgeon experience and learned techniques. A robot surgical system was recently introduced to overcome these limitations and it may potentially provide precise and safe laparoscopic surgery. Methods Between March 2006 and July 2010, a total of 45 patients underwent laparoscopic or robot-assisted pancreatectomy performed by a single pancreatic surgeon to preserve the spleen. Twenty-five patients underwent the conventional laparoscopic approach (Lap group) and the other 20 patients underwent robot-assisted surgery (Robot group). The perioperative clinicopathologic variables (age, gender, length of resected pancreas, tumor size, tumor location, amount of bleeding, operation time, length of hospital stay, complications, mortality, and cost) were compared between the two groups, as well as the spleen preservation rate. Results Younger patients preferred robot-assisted surgery to conventional laparoscopic surgery (44.5 ± 15.9 vs. 56.7 ± 13.9 years, p = 0.010), and the mean operation time was longer in the Robot group (258.2 ± 118.6 vs. 348.7 ± 121.8 min, p = 0.016). The spleen-preserving rate of the Robot group was considerably superior to that of the Lap group (fail/success, 9/16 vs. 1/19, p = 0.027). However, robot surgery cost the patients about USD 8,300 (USD 8,304.8 ± 870.0), which was more than twice the amount for the Lap group (USD 3,861.7 ± 1,724.3). There were no significant differences in other clinicopathologic variables. Conclusion Robot-assisted pancreatic surgery could provide an increased chance for spleen preservation in spite of higher cost and longer operation time. More experiences are needed to specifically address the role of robot surgery in the advanced laparoscopic era.
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