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J Urol. 2014 Sep;192(3):671-6. doi: 10.1016/j.juro.2014.04.018. Epub 2014 Apr 18.

Does robotic assistance confer an economic benefit during laparoscopic radical nephrectomy?

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Department of Urology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Department of Urology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana. Electronic address:



While robotic assisted radical nephrectomy is safe with outcomes and complication rates comparable to those of the pure laparoscopic approach, there is little evidence of an economic or clinical benefit.


From the 2009 to 2011 Nationwide Inpatient Sample database we identified patients 18 years old or older who underwent radical nephrectomy for primary renal malignancy. Robotic assisted and laparoscopic techniques were noted. Patients treated with the open technique and those with evidence of metastatic disease were excluded from analysis. Descriptive statistics were performed using the chi-square and Mann-Whitney tests, and the Student t-test. Multiple linear regression was done to examine factors associated with increased hospital costs and charges.


We identified 24,312 radical nephrectomy cases for study inclusion, of which 7,787 (32%) were performed robotically. There was no demographic difference between robotic assisted and pure laparoscopic radical nephrectomy cases. Median total charges were $47,036 vs $38,068 for robotic assisted vs laparoscopic surgery (p <0.001). Median total hospital costs for robotic assisted surgery were $15,149 compared to $11,735 for laparoscopic surgery (p <0.001). There was no difference in perioperative complications or the incidence of death. Compared to the laparoscopic approach robotic assistance conferred an estimated $4,565 and $11,267 increase in hospital costs and charges, respectively, when adjusted for adapted Charlson comorbidity index score, perioperative complications and length of stay (p <0.001).


Robotic assisted radical nephrectomy results in increased medical expense without improving patient morbidity. Assuming surgeon proficiency with pure laparoscopy, robotic technology should be reserved primarily for complex surgeries requiring reconstruction. Traditional laparoscopic techniques should continue to be used for routine radical nephrectomy.


cost-benefit analysis; kidney; laparoscopy; nephrectomy; robotics

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