Comparison of Open, Laparoscopic, and Robotic Colectomies Using a Large National Database: Outcomes and Trends Related to Surgery Center Volume

Journal Diseases of the Colon & Rectum
Authors Yeo HL, Isaacs AJ, Abelson JS, Milsom JW, Sedrakyan A
Year Published 2016
Link to publication



Previous studies have shown that high-volume centers and laparoscopic techniques improve outcomes of colectomy. These evidence-based measures have been slow to be accepted, and current trends are unknown. In addition, the current rates and outcomes of robotic surgery are unknown.


The purpose of this study was to examine current national trends in the use of minimally invasive surgery and to evaluate hospital volume trends over time.


This was a retrospective study.


This study was conducted in a tertiary referral hospital.


Using the National Inpatient Sample, we evaluated trends in patients undergoing elective open, laparoscopic, and robotic colectomies from 2009 to 2012. Patient and institutional characteristics were evaluated and outcomes compared between groups using multivariate hierarchical-logistic regression and nonparametric tests. The National Inpatient Sample includes patient and hospital demographics, admission and treating diagnoses, inpatient procedures, in-hospital mortality, length of hospital stay, hospital charges, and discharge status.


In-hospital mortality and postoperative complications of surgery were measured.


A total of 509,029 patients underwent elective colectomy from 2009 to 2012. Of those 266,263 (52.3%) were open, 235,080 (46.2%) laparoscopic, and 7686 (1.5%) robotic colectomies. The majority of minimal access surgery is still being performed at high-volume compared with low-volume centers (37.5% vs 28.0% and 44.0% vs 23.0%; p < 0.001). A total of 36% of colectomies were for cancer. The number of robotic colectomies has quadrupled from 702 in 2009 to 3390 (1.1%) in 2012. After adjustment, the rate of iatrogenic complications was higher for robotic surgery (OR = 1.73 (95% CI, 1.20-2.47)), and the median cost of robotic surgery was higher, at $15,649 (interquartile range, $11,840-$20,183) vs $12,071 (interquartile range, $9338-$16,203; p < 0.001 for laparoscopic).


This study may be limited by selection bias by surgeons regarding the choice of patient management. In addition, there are limitations in the measures of disease severity and, because the database relies on billing codes, there may be inaccuracies such as underreporting.


Our results show that the majority of colectomies in the United States are still performed open, although rates of laparoscopy continue to increase. There is a trend toward increased volume of laparoscopic procedures at specialty centers. The role of robotics is still being defined, in light of higher cost, lack of clinical benefit, and increased iatrogenic complications, albeit comparable overall complications, as compared with laparoscopic colectomy.