Picture: File ROBOTS are no better at performing surgery than humans

Robots are no better at performing surgery than humans, research suggests.

Two separate studies found that surgeons armed with a scalpel undertake procedures faster than machines, at a  lower cost — and do not make more mistakes.

They also discovered that using robots did not reduce side effects or improve the patient's health when compared with manual operations.

The NHS has about 60 surgical robots, costing around R270 million each. The most common is the Da Vinci robot, which comprises four robotic arms controlled by a surgeon at a console.

The machine was first used in September 2000 to remove a gallbladder, and is now frequently used for prostate, kidney and bladder surgery.

But a 12-year study of nearly 24,000 kidney operations, conducted by Stanford University in California in the US, found the differences in clinical outcomes and recovery period were indistinguishable.

However, robots took longer, with 47 percent of robotic operations taking  more than four hours, compared with 26 percent of manual operations.

A second study, by Leeds University, assessed 500 operations for rectal cancer, and came up with similar conclusions. Both sets of research were published in the JAMA medical journal.
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