The runaway popularity of robotic prostate surgery is a case study in the triumph of marketing over medicine, and for that reason, it could be a glimpse into the future, according to a report in the New York Times. Last year, an overwhelming 86 percent of the 85,000 U.S. men who had prostate surgery chose robot-assisted procedures despite scant evidence that those operations have proven to be safer or produce better long-term outcomes than traditional prostate surgeries. Oh yeah, robot-assisted prostate surgeries cost $1,500 to $2,000 more per patient than traditional variety, which involve surgeons making small incisions in the abdomen and inserting tools with their own hands to slice out the organ.
Few procedures have skyrocketed in popularity as much recently, with robot-assisted prostate operations surging from an 5,000 a mere eight years to 85,000 last year. And it’s questionable whether the additional millions in spending helped patients at all:
Medical researchers say the robot situation is emblematic of a more general issue. New technology has sometimes led to big advances, which can justify extra costs. But often, technology spreads long before investigators know whether it is worthwhile.
From: "When Marketing Trumps Medicine."