Robotic surgery could help cancer patients recover quicker and enable them to spend less time in hospital, according to new research.

The study found that robot-assisted surgery helped reduce the chance of readmission by half (52%) and reduced the prevalence of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism by 77%.

Patients physical activity level, stamina and quality of life also increased.

All secondary outcomes were either almost equal to or improved by robot-assisted surgery

The study included 338 patients with non-metastatic bladder cancer across nine UK hospitals. They were randomised into two groups; half had robot-assisted radical cystectomy (bladder removal) with intracorporeal reconstruction (process of taking section of bowel to make new bladder), and 169 patients had open radical cystectomy.

On average, the robot-assisted group stayed eight days in hospital, compared to 10 days for the open surgery group. Readmittance to hospital within 90 days of surgery was also significantly reduced – 21% for the robot-assisted group vs 32% for open.

The researchers also assessed for 20 secondary outcomes (including blood clot prevalence, wound complications, quality of life, disability, stamina, activity levels, and survival) at three-, six- and 12-months post-surgery.

All secondary outcomes were either almost equal to or improved by robot-assisted surgery. For this reason, the researchers are urging National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) to make it available as a clinical option across the UK for all major abdominal surgeries

Researchers want NICE to make robotic surgery available for all major abdominal surgeries

However, robot-assisted surgery is currently only available to a small number of UK hospitals. With pressure on the NHS at an all-time high, the researchers say robot-assisted surgery could be an effective way to free up beds and enable patients to return home more quickly.

Co-Chief Investigator, Professor John Kelly, Professor of Uro-Oncology at UCL’s Division of Surgery & Interventional Science and consultant surgeon at University College London Hospitals, said: “In light of the positive findings, the perception of open surgery as the gold standard for major surgeries is now being challenged for the first time.

“We hope that all eligible patients needing major abdominal operations can now be offered the option of having robotic surgery.”

Co-Chief Investigator Professor James Catto, Professor of Urological Surgery at the Department of Oncology and Metabolism, University of Sheffield, added that the study points to “future trends in healthcare”.

“Soon, we may be able to monitor recovery after discharge, to find those developing problems. It is possible that tracking walking levels would highlight those who need a district nurse visit or perhaps a check-up sooner in the hospital.”