Training robotic hepatectomy: the Hong Kong experience and perspective

Eric C.H. Lai, Chung Ngai Tang


The introduction of robotic surgical systems has revolutionized the practice of minimal invasive surgery (MIS). Although little data regarding robotic hepatectomies have been reported, it appears to be similar to conventional laparoscopic approach in terms of blood loss, morbidity rate, mortality rate and hospital stay at least. The application of robotic system in liver surgery was not well evaluated yet, particularly learning curve. Studies were identified by searching MEDLINE and PubMed databases for articles from January 2001 to May 2016 using the keywords “laparoscopic hepatectomy”, “robotic hepatectomy”, and “learning curve”. With the limited data in robotic hepatectomy, the learning curve model of robotic hepatectomy needs to base on the experience of conventional laparoscopic hepatectomy. Based on the learning curve study experience for laparoscopic hepatectomies, the minimal number laparoscopic minor and major hepatectomies to overcome learning curve are 22–64 cases, and 45–75 cases, respectively. Left lateral sectionectomy technique is more standardized, and it is a good start for training of MIS liver surgery. However, the training program required for the robotic liver surgeons still highly depends on the surgeons’ experience of previous open and laparoscopic liver surgery, the surgeons’ previous experience of other robotic surgeries, the experience of the surgical team including the assistant surgeons and nursing staffs, and the complexity of the diseases. We discourage performance of robotic hepatectomy in the occasional patient by a team that is not well prepared and is not embedded in a specialized center. Knowledge and practical skills are both required in MIS liver surgery and cannot be replaced by newer tools, including the most advanced robotic system.