Robot-assisted distal pancreatectomy (RDP) is increasingly used as an alternative to laparoscopic distal pancreatectomy (LDP) in patients with resectable pancreatic cancer but comparative multicenter studies confirming the safety and efficacy of RDP are lacking.
An international, multicenter, retrospective, cohort study, including consecutive patients undergoing RDP and LDP for resectable pancreatic cancer in 33 experienced centers from 11 countries (2010–2019). The primary outcome was R0-resection. Secondary outcomes included lymph node yield, major complications, conversion rate, and overall survival.
In total, 542 patients after minimally invasive distal pancreatectomy were included: 103 RDP (19%) and 439 LDP (81%). The R0-resection rate was comparable (75.7% RDP vs. 69.3% LDP, p = 0.404). RDP was associated with longer operative time (290 vs. 240 min, p < 0.001), more vascular resections (7.6% vs. 2.7%, p = 0.030), lower conversion rate (4.9% vs. 17.3%, p = 0.001), more major complications (26.2% vs. 16.3%, p = 0.019), improved lymph node yield (18 vs. 16, p = 0.021), and longer hospital stay (10 vs. 8 days, p = 0.001). The 90-day mortality (1.9% vs. 0.7%, p = 0.268) and overall survival (median 28 vs. 31 months, p = 0.599) did not differ significantly between RDP and LDP, respectively.
In selected patients with resectable pancreatic cancer, RDP and LDP provide a comparable R0-resection rate and overall survival in experienced centers. Although the lymph node yield and conversion rate appeared favorable after RDP, LDP was associated with shorter operating time, less major complications, and shorter hospital stay. The specific benefits associated with each approach should be confirmed by multicenter, randomized trials.