The Popular Science website – Popsci.com – reports with breathless enthusiasm about claims that McGill University Health Centre/Montreal General Hospital performed a “world first, a completely robotic surgery and anesthesia.”
By now, unless you’ve been living in a cave, you know about DaVinci surgical robots. This team also used an anesthesia robot, nicknamed “McSleepy.” The surgery was done on a man’s McProstate.
(Can you imagine the informed consent for this one?)
Popsci.com called it “groundbreaking surgery” and stated that the robots’ “surgeon masters kept them closely monitored, of course, but the use of the bots provided for a higher level of precision than would be achievable with humans alone.”
How that alleged “higher level of precision” translates into patient outcomes is quite another matter – as there are a number of legitimate questions raised about outcomes after robotic surgery.
Yet Popsci.com leaped ahead to calling the surgery “a success.” By what metric? Because the patient survived? (Although we’re not told even that.)
The Popsci.com story is strikingly similar to the news release issued by McGill.
The following photo comes from McGill’s website. Aren’t you impressed by the high-tech scene? With the patient’s face blurred out, one can even forget that there’s an element of human touch to medicine.
Meantime, for another glimpse of how medical centers promote their new robotic toys – for which they spend a lot on marketing and public relations, see this news release from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. It touts the “Region’s First Single-Incision, Robot-Assisted Kidney Repair.”
There’s an interesting quote in the news release from one of their doctors: “The results are the same as open surgery or laparascopic surgery, but there are no visible scars, and the recovery time is much faster.”
Hmm. The results are the same (no data provided) but no scars and faster recovery time.
Which outcomes? Where are the data on benefits and on harms?
I’m waiting for the next medical center news release: “First On Our Block To Successfully Treat Toenail Fungus Completely By Robot.” The outcomes were the same, but no one had to actually touch that awful toenail.