Robotic surgery is increasingly used in the field of rectal cancer surgery. This study aimed to compare the short- and long-term outcomes between robotic and laparoscopic ultralow anterior resection (uLAR) and coloanal anastomosis (CAA). Between January 2007 and December 2010, a retrospective chart review was performed for all patients with low rectal cancer who underwent curative uLAR and CAA with or without intersphincteric resection using either a robotic or a laparoscopic approach. The study excluded patients with tumors invading the levator ani or external sphincter, patients with T4 cancers invading the prostate or vagina, and patients for whom an open approach was used. Patients' short- and long-term outcomes were evaluated. This study enrolled 84 consecutive patients (47 in the robotic group and 37 in the laparoscopic group). The patient characteristics and operative data did not differ significantly between the groups except for the rate of conversion to open surgery (robot, 2.1 % vs laparoscopy, 16.2 %; p = 0.02). The postoperative outcomes also were similar in the two groups, but the hospital stay was shorter in the robotic group than in the laparoscopic group (robot, 9 days vs laparoscopy, 11 days; p = 0.011). No postoperative mortality occurred. The median followup period was 31.5 months. No difference was shown in local recurrence, 3-year overall survival, or disease-free survival between the two groups. Robotic uLAR and CAA with or without ISR is a safe and feasible surgical approach with a lower conversion rate, a shorter hospital stay, and similar oncologic outcomes compared with a laparoscopic approach. Further prospective and case-control cohort studies with longer follow-up periods are required.
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