SAN DIEGO (FRONTLINE MEDICAL NEWS) The demand for gynecologic oncologists to perform robotic hysterectomies – even for benign indications – has increased to the point that additional fellowship training spots will be necessary to meet the need, Dr. Kayla M. Wishall said at the annual meeting of the Society of Gynecologic Oncology.

More and more patients want their hysterectomies performed robotically. They find the high-quality optics and minimally invasive nature of the robotic procedure appealing – smaller incisions, less blood loss, shorter hospital stay, and faster recovery. And gynecologic oncologists are getting an increasing number of referrals because of their special expertise in robotic surgery and extensive experience with higher-risk patients, explained Dr. Wishall, a gynecologic oncologist at Hahnemann University Hospital/Drexel University in Philadelphia.

“This trend will likely tax the limited resources of gynecologic oncologists,” she added.

Another possible reason for the growing demand for gynecologic oncologist–performed robotic hysterectomies is that these subspecialists achieve better outcomes than gynecologists who do robotic hysterectomies, at least according to the findings of a retrospective study performed by Dr. Wishall, which included all of the 468 robotic hysterectomies performed at a large academic medical center in a recent 5-year period.

Gynecologic oncologists performed 64 (16.5%) of the 387 robotic hysterectomies done for benign indications. All told, gynecologists did 254 of the robotic hysterectomies; gynecologic oncologists performed 214.

Even though patients referred to gynecologic oncologists for these procedures were older, heavier, more likely to have had previous abdominal surgery, more often members of racial minorities, and had a higher prevalence of cardiac comorbidities, they experienced significantly fewer intra- and postoperative complications than patients whose robotic hysterectomies were performed by gynecologists, Dr. Wishall reported.

The combined intraoperative and postoperative complication rate for robotic hysterectomies performed by gynecologic oncologists was 5.2%, compared with 16% for gynecologists. But the rate of cardiac comorbidities, for instance, was 36.4% among patients seeing gynecologic oncologists, compared with 23.6% among those seeing gynecologists.

Moreover, gynecologists were about 10-fold more likely than gynecologic oncologists to call for an intraoperative consultation and sixfold more likely to convert their robotic hysterectomy to an open procedure. Their average operating room time was about 40% longer (244 minutes versus 171 minutes), too, in this single-center experience.

Dr. Wishall reported having no financial conflicts related to her study, which was conducted free of commercial support.