Update on robotic surgery for rectal cancer treatment
Laparoscopic total mesorectal excision (TME) is technically demanding and has a steep learning curve. Moreover, two recent randomized controlled trials have questioned the oncological safety of laparoscopic treatment for rectal cancer. Robotic surgery, thanks to its technical advantages, could potentially overcome the intrinsic limitations of standard laparoscopy. In this paper we will describe the surgical technique of robotic TME and review the recent literature on robotic rectal surgery. Short term, functional and oncological outcomes will be taken into consideration, as well as learning curve and costs. Robotic rectal resection is reported to have lower conversion rates (CRs), better functional outcomes and shorter learning curve, with comparable oncological results. Robotic surgery remains more time consuming and affected by higher costs. The technological advantages provided by the robotic system could probably facilitate the widespread adoption of minimally-invasive TME, that still has a low penetration worldwide. The educational capabilities of the platform, together with structured training programs, could allow novice surgeons to safely approach colorectal surgery.