Robotic assistance in lung lobectomy has been suggested to enhance the adoption of minimally invasive techniques among surgeons. However, little is known of learning curves in different minimally invasive techniques. We studied learning curves in robotic-assisted versus video- assisted lobectomies for lung cancer.
A single surgeon performed his first 75 video-assisted thoracic surgery (VATS) lobectomies from April 2007 to November 2012, and his 75 first robotic-assisted thoracic surgery (RATS) lobectomies between August 2011 and May 2018. A retrospective chart review was done. Cumulative sum (CUSUM) analysis was used to identify the learning curve.
No operative deaths occurred for VATS patients or RATS patients. Conversion-to-open rate was significantly lower in the RATS group (2.7% vs. 13.3%, p = 0.016). Meanwhile, 90-day mortality (1.3% vs. 5.3%, p = 0.172), postoperative complications (24% vs. 24%, p = 0.999), re- operation rates (4% vs. 5.3%, p = 0.688), operation time (170±56 min vs. 178±66 min, p = 0.663) and length of stay (8.9 ± 7.9 days vs. 8.2 ± 5.8 days, p = 0.844) were similar between the two groups. Based on CUSUM analysis, learning curves were similar for both procedures, although slightly shorter for RATS (proficiency obtained with 53 VATS cases vs. 45 RATS cases, p = 0.198).
Robotic-assisted thoracoscopic lung lobectomy can be implemented safely and efficiently in an expert center with earlier experience in VATS lobectomies. However, there seems to be a learning curve of its own despite the surgeon’s previous experience in conventional thoracoscopic surgery.

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