Robots are going after your prostate with knives

Knife-wielding robots are increasingly getting unleashed on prostates, a discovery likely to make men everywhere cross their legs. However, our future robot overlords may be gentle with us — it turns out surgery on your prostate that involves the machines seems much safer than surgery without them.

Top image: Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

The standard procedure for removing prostates diseased with cancer was open radical prostatectomy. This involves cuts, say, between your navel and the base of your penis, or between your scrotum and anus — fun, eh? The hope is to prevent the cancer from spreading to other parts of the body — prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in U.S. men.

A similar procedure, known as robot-assisted radical prostatectomy, has surgeons using robots to see vital anatomical structures more clearly and operate more precisely. Only tiny incisions are needed, leading to less pain and recovery time.

Investigators now find that robot-assisted surgery is now both more common and far more successful than its human-only counterpart. Between October 2008 and December 2009, they saw 11,889 patients undergoing robot-assisted radical prostatectomy, versus 7,389 for open radical prostatectomy. The patients receiving robot-assisted surgery proved less likely to need blood transfusions, have a prolonged hospital stay, and suffer complications during or after surgery, including cardiac, respiratory, and vascular problems.

The researchers detailed their findings in the current issue of the journal European Urology.