Since it was first introduced in 2003, there's been a sharp increase in the number of men who have robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, which is often referred to as RALP.
This type of surgery is really just a laparoscopic radical prostatectomy
that is performed using a robotic device.
The device is a machine with robotic arms that is known as the da Vinci system.
How it works
Pros of robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy
Cons of robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy
Know the surgeon's skill level!
Some have suggested that a surgeon must perform at least 250 traditional radical prostatectomies to master robotic surgery for prostate cancer. That number is much higher (750) for laparoscopic surgeries.
No matter what type of surgery you choose, you want to make sure you have a surgeon who is proficient at that type of technique.
What you want to avoid is a surgeon who is learning how to perform RALP on your man.
Here are some questions you can ask to help assess a surgeon's skill level:
Long term results
There is no compelling difference (to date) between RALP and traditional radical prostatectomy for problems like incontinence and erectile dysfunction.
Part of the problem is that there isn't long-term data. Another issue is that studies vary from center to center. If only one highly proficient surgeon is performing all the surgeries, his or her skill may skew the study.
We'd love to see across-the-board, large-scale, prospective studies of multiple centers across the U.S (both large and small).
The reality is that the more surgeons perform RALP, the better they should be at it.
To give you some perspective, when traditional radical prostatectomies were first performed, incontinence rates were as high as 50%. Now continence (defined as no pad usage for the last 4 weeks) is as high as 93% after 18 months.
Robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy, references:
Patel, VR, Chammas MF, Shah S. Robotic assisted laparoscopic
radical prostatectomy: A review of the current state of affairs.
http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/552230_1. Accessed March 29, 2015.
The American Cancer Society. Prostate Cancer. http://www.cancer.org. Accessed March 17, 2015.
US TOO International, Inc. Pathways for new prostate cancer patients. http://www.ustoo.com. Accessed September 1, 2008.
Always consult a medical professional.