is the first in the nation to buy a robotic system for minimally invasive surgeries in the abdomen that uses eyetracking technology.
Florida Hospital is the first in the nation to buy a robotic system for minimally invasive surgeries in the abdomen that uses eyetracking technology, allowing surgeons to control the laparoscopic camera with their eyes.
The announcement about the sale of the Senhance Surgical System caught investors’ attention earlier this week, because it’s the robot’s first commercial use in the United States, and it is the first robotic system to receive the U.S. government’s approval in the past two decades, since the now well-known da Vinci robot was approved.
“We haven’t thrown away our other robots, but we look at this as an absolutely new beginning in surgical robotics,” said Dr. Steve Eubanks, executive medical director of the Florida Hospital Institute for Surgical Advancement.
The robot has been in development for about a decade and became commercially available in several countries in Europe and Asia late last year. The company has sold fewer than 10 robots overseas so far, officials said.
It’s too soon to say whether patients who undergo procedures such as hernia surgery, gallbladder removal and colorectal and gynecological procedures with Senhance will have better outcomes compared with those who undergo a traditional laparoscopic procedure or with another robotic system.
When comparing the existing robotic systems and non-robotic surgery, studies have found similar outcomes in patients, while showing robotic procedures were associated with higher costs.
“[The robot] seems shiny and exciting, but shiny and exciting is not always better,” said Dr. Sherry Glied, professor and dean of New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service. “One thing we know is that these things are expensive, and they have to be paid for.”
In order to get clearance from the Food and Drug Administration, the device maker had to show that its product is at least as safe and effective as what’s already available in the market.
The device is made by the North-Carolina-based company TransEnterix and costs between $1 million and $1.5 million.
The company installed a Senhance Surgical Robot at Florida Hospital earlier this year for training and research purposes, before it received the FDA clearance in October.
TransEnterix and its early adopters like Eubanks at Florida Hospital say that in comparison to the main robotic system in the market, Senhance costs less and has a shorter set-up time, which means shorter procedure time.
But when looking at the overall cost — including the device, service contracts and other factors — the robotic surgery will cost more than a non-robotic laparoscopic surgery, he said.
“So eventually it has to prove superiority to laparoscopic surgery, otherwise we’re not adding value,” Eubanks said.
The hospital plans to offer the procedure starting next month.