• Surgery;
  • robotic;
  • laparoscopic;
  • rectal cancer;
  • proctectomy;
  • anterior resection;
  • abdominoperineal resection


Aim  The study aimed to compare robotic rectal resection with laparoscopic rectal resection for cancer. Robotic surgery has been used successfully in many branches of surgery but there is little evidence in the literature on its use in rectal cancer.

Methods  We performed a systematic review of the available literature in order to evaluate the feasibility, safety and effectiveness of robotic versus laparoscopic surgery for rectal cancer. We compared robotic and laparoscopic surgery with respect to twelve end-points including operative and recovery outcomes, early postoperative mortality and morbidity, and oncological parameters. A subgroup analysis of patients undergoing full-robotic or robot-assisted rectal resection and robotic total mesorectal excision was carried out. All aspects of Cochrane Handbook for systematic reviews and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Metanalysis (PRISMA) statement were followed to conduct this systematic review. Comprehensive electronic search strategies were developed using the following electronic databases: PubMed, EMBASE, OVID, Medline, Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, EBM reviews and CINAHL. Randomized and nonrandomized clinical trials comparing robotic and laparoscopic resection for rectal cancer were included. No language or publication status restrictions were imposed. A data-extraction sheet was developed based on the data extraction template of the Cochrane Group. The statistical analysis was performed using the odd ratio (OR) for categorical variables and the weighted mean difference (WMD) for continuous variables.

Results  Eight non randomized studies were identified that included 854 patients in total, 344 (40.2%) in the robotic group and 510 (59.7%) in the laparoscopic group. Meta-analysis suggested that the conversion rate to open surgery in the robotic group was significantly lower than that with laparoscopic surgery (OR = 0.26, 95% CI: 0.12–0.57, = 0.0007). There were no significant differences in operation time, length of hospital stay, time to resume regular diet, postoperative morbidity and mortality, and the oncological accuracy of resection.

Conclusion  Robotic surgery for rectal cancer has a lower conversion rate and a similar operative time compared with laparoscopic surgery, with no difference in recovery, oncological and postoperative outcomes.