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Please stop saying we are only 3% penetrated in soft tissue surgical robotics - these are the numbers to care about.

Updated: May 30

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So firstly, I think I’ve found the source of this urban myth about the fact “we are only 3% penetrated into surgery with surgical robotics.”

I keep seeing this nonsense and just wondering if marketing departments are actually doing their jobs anymore. Instead, it seems like some companies are just latching on to a “sound bite” that fits their narrative.

The citation often quoted is this one:

Cepolina F, Razzoli RP. An introductory review of robotically assisted surgical systems. Int J Med Robot. 2022 Aug;18(4):e2409. doi: 10.1002/rcs.2409. Epub 2022 May 4. PMID: 35476899; PMCID: PMC9540802.

Where in the introduction an unsubstantiated claim is made with no data reference that I can find:

“Globally, it is estimated that about 3% of surgeries are performed robotically, offering patients the benefits of MIS, fewer complications, shorter stay in hospital, and faster return to normal activities.”

No reference - and the clue is in “estimated.” and "Surgeries" not applicable surgeries.

I’ve now seen this “data” quoted more than 22 times in an effort to estimate the surgical robotics penetration - and I think I know exactly why this narrative works for some of the companies entering or trying to enter the surgical robotics space.

I encourage you to dig into this paper and ask if an entire industry should be basing much of its rationale of investments, hype, R&D on this data, this paper.

It is even more important to read this paper in depth - as it discusses many discontinued systems, poor data on what systems are in development, ortho robots, spine robots, needle navigation and even cardiovascular end-vascular robots. I don’t want to say it is a bad paper. I want to say it is not a paper to base a penetration of soft tissue surgical robotics upon.

So I struggle to see how this claimed  3% - can be related to the penetration of soft tissue surgical robotics. I think we need to stop using this reference for that purpose.

Why does this matter?

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