Surgical procedures performed with the aid of a robot is sometimes marketed as the “best” form of surgery. But a recent review of 50 randomized controlled trials, testing robot-assisted surgeries against conventional methods for abdominal or pelvic procedures, suggests that while there may be some benefits to robotic surgery, any advantages over other approaches are modest.

Robotic surgery is performed by surgeons, not robots. But instead of conventional hand-held tools used in laparoscopic surgery, which involves tiny incisions, and open surgery, in which the surgeon enters the body through a large incision, the doctor uses a machine. The surgeon controls the machine’s tools remotely by using joysticks and foot controls while viewing the surgical site through a high-definition monitor that provides a three-dimensional image of the procedure.

Some surgeons believe that these robots allow more precision during the operation,…

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