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May 30, 2008

To the New York Times Editor:

Nicholas Bakalar’s May 27 article “Mixed Outcomes in Laparoscopy for Prostates” could potentially mislead readers to believe that daVinci, or “robot assisted,” laparoscopic prostate cancer surgeries are far riskier than traditional surgery techniques.  Citing a recently published Journal of Clinical Oncology study, its authors and other like-minded experts, Mr. Bakalar’s article not only emphasizes just the potential negative outcomes – which might accompany any type of radical surgery – but also ignores the fact that the Journal study’s data is more than three years old.  This gives readers the false impression that the state of prostate cancer surgery in 2008 is the same as it was in 2005.  I must respectfully disagree.

As Director of the Prostate Center of Austin, TX, and Director of Robotic Surgery, I have performed more than 1,200 daVinci prostate surgeries and continue to perform more than 300 daVinci Robotic Prostate Surgeries a year.  While no surgery comes without some level of risk, my extensive personal experience performing daVinci prostate surgery since 2004 has shown that its benefits far outweigh the possible disadvantages.

With daVinci robotic surgery, patients experience cure rates, urinary control rates, and post-operative erectile function that are equal to and – in some surgeons’ hands – better than traditional open surgery.  Thanks to the heightened precision and vision provided by daVinci robotic techniques, vital nerves can be preserved so prostate cancer doesn’t have to mean impotence for prostate cancer patients.  Furthermore, patients experience quicker recovery periods and less bleeding due to the minimally invasive nature of the daVinci procedure.  For these important reasons over 60 percent of prostate cancer patients today choose robotic surgery making daVinci prostate cancer surgery the most often chosen option for treating prostate cancer.

Coincidentally, on the same day Mr. Bakalar’s story ran in the New York Times, ABC News aired a story that lauded the benefits of daVinci Robotic Surgery as a viable alternative to open heart surgery.  Also acknowledging inherent risks, that story, however, cited several medical experts who believe that robotics “could make a major difference in bypass surgery.”  Perhaps many New York Times readers facing critical decisions about prostate or other surgeries in the future – would benefit from this more recent and balanced perspective on daVinci Robotic Surgery.


Dr. Randy Fagin

Director of the Prostate Center of Austin



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