This week the Today Show ran a fascinating spot on sleep apnea. I found it fascinating because it highlighted the use of robotic surgery as a treatment method, referring to this application of the DaVinci system as “state of the art”. While I applaud the Today Show for explaining the dangers of sleep apnea, and for their efforts to increase awareness of this potentially deadly disease, I’m not sure I agree that robotic surgery is the “state of the art” way to treat this disease. Robotic surgery undoubtedly offers advantages in a number of surgical applications. But I’m not aware of any literature suggesting better outcomes, or a less painful recovery, following robotic surgery for sleep apnea, compared to less invasive techniques. Further, given how common sleep apnea is (estimated to effect up to 10% of adults), and how scarce and expensive robotic surgery is, I would argue that what is truly state of the art are less invasive, less expensive, more readily accessible treatment options.
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