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Inguinal hernia repair: is there a benefit to using the robot?



The number of robotic surgical procedures performed yearly is constantly rising, due to improved dexterity and visualization capabilities compared with conventional methods. We hypothesized that outcomes after robotic-assisted inguinal hernia repair would not be significantly different from outcomes after laparoscopic or open repair.


All patients undergoing inguinal hernia repair between 2012 and 2016 were identified using institutional American College of Surgeons National Surgical Quality Improvement Program data. Demographics; preoperative, intraoperative, and postoperative characteristics; and outcomes were evaluated based on method of repair (Robot, Lap, or Open). Categorical variables were analyzed by Chi-square test and continuous variables using Mann–Whitney U.


A total of 510 patients were identified who underwent unilateral inguinal hernia repair (Robot: 13.8% [n = 69], Lap: 48.1% [n = 241], Open: 38.1% [n = 191]). There were no demographic differences between groups other than age (Robot: 52 [39–62], Lap: 57 [45–67], and Open: 56 [48–67] years, p = 0.03). Operative duration was also different (Robot: 105 [76–146] vs. Lap: 81 [61–103] vs. Open: 71 [56–88] min, p < 0.001). There were no operative mortalities and all patients except one were discharged home the same day. Postoperative occurrences (adverse events, readmissions, and death) were similar between groups (Robot: 2.9% [2], Lap: 3.3% [8], Open: 5.2% [10], p = 0.53). Although rare, there was a significant difference in rate of postoperative skin and soft tissue infection (Robot: 2.9% [2] vs. Lap: 0% [0] vs. Open: 0.5% [1], p = 0.02). Cost was significantly different between groups (Robot: $7162 [$5942–8375] vs. Lap: $4527 [$2310–6003] vs. Open: $4264 [$3277–5143], p < 0.001).


Outcomes after robotic-assisted inguinal hernia repair were similar to outcomes after laparoscopic or open repair. Longer operative duration during robotic repair may contribute to higher rates of skin and soft tissue infection. Higher cost should be considered, along with surgeon comfort level and patient preference when deciding whether inguinal hernia repair is approached robotically.

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The authors acknowledge Kathleen B. Meneses for her assistance maintaining the robotic surgery database.


The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute under award numbers T32 HL007849 (JHM) and UM1 HL088925 (EJC) supported research reported in this publication.

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Correspondence to Eric J. Charles.

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Dr. Hallowell reports an educational grant and travel expenses for an educational course from Intuitive Surgical, Inc. Dr. Sawyer reports consulting fees from 3M, Merck & Co., Inc., Pfizer Inc., and GlaxoSmithKline. Drs. Charles, Mehaffey, Tache-Leon, and Yang have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute under award numbers T32 HL007849 (JHM) and UM1 HL088925 (EJC) supported research reported in this publication.

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Charles, E.J., Mehaffey, J.H., Tache-Leon, C.A. et al. Inguinal hernia repair: is there a benefit to using the robot?. Surg Endosc 32, 2131–2136 (2018).

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  • Robotics
  • Inguinal hernia repair
  • Laparoscopic inguinal hernia repair
  • Open inguinal hernia repair