Robotic surgery for rectal cancer as a platform to build on: review of current evidence

Pietro Achilli, Fabian Grass, David W. Larson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Laparoscopy in colorectal surgery reduces the rate of postoperative complications, shortens the length of stay in hospital, and improves the quality of patient care. Despite these established benefits, the technical challenges of rectal resection for cancer have resulted in most operations being performed through open surgery in the USA. Moreover, controversy in the current literature questions the oncologic safety of a laparoscopic approach for rectal cancer. How then can surgeons innovate to overcome the technical challenges while preserving the critical oncological outcomes of high-quality rectal cancer surgery? Robotics may be a platform that allows us to overcome the technical challenges in the pelvis while maintaining both oncological outcomes and the benefits of a minimally invasive technique. Current evidence suggests that the quality of total mesorectal excision, the rates of circumferential margin involvement, and postoperative outcomes are comparable between robotic and laparoscopic surgery. While a robotic approach demonstrates lower conversion rates and reduced surgeon workload, the operative time is longer and initial costs are higher; however, time and future science will determine its true benefits. We review the current state of robotic surgery and its impact on rectal cancer surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)44-51
Number of pages8
JournalSurgery Today
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2021


  • Minimally invasive surgery
  • Rectal cancer
  • Robotic platform
  • Robotic surgery
  • Total mesorectal excision

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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