A look at robotic surgery proliferation in Denmark

Frederik Joelving, who once did outstanding work for ReutersHealth in the U.S., recently published a piece on robotic surgery in Politiken, a major newspaper in Denmark.

A rough translation of the way the article concluded:

“It may be difficult to reverse (the proliferation trend) if the large randomized trials that other countries are doing should give low marks to the da Vinci system. … Consultant Christian Gluud of the Copenhagen Trial Unit at the University Hospital and an expert in evidence-based medicine, believes that the lack of regulation has left patients in the lurch. “The talks can be held for days about all the damage that has been observed by things slipped through the market without being properly investigated,” he said . “There is a patient safety issue that we have not sufficiently mastered.”

Joelving wrote to me:

“What’s interesting is that even though our healthcare system is publicly funded, the development here is largely parallel to what’s been happening in the US: With hospitals competing to take the lead in robotic surgery and using dubious claims to market the technology, it has now become virtually impossible to have an open (let alone traditional laparoscopic) prostatectomy in most parts of the country.

So far, Denmark — a country of 5.5 million — has bought da Vinci equipment for 44 million US$, and the reimbursement for each robotic surgery is between 5000 and 10000 US$ higher than for the traditional approach. What’s more, all except one university-affiliated hospitals have stopped teaching open/laparoscopic prostate surgery. As one of my sources said, What happens when something goes wrong during a robotic surgery and you have to convert?”

The global march of the robots continues.


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