Background Recently introduced robot-assisted laparoscopic surgery (RALS) facilitates endoscopic surgical manipulation and thereby reduces the learning curve for (advanced) laparoscopic surgery. We present our learning curve with RALS for aortobifemoral bypass grafting as a treatment for aortoiliac occlusive disease. Methods Between February 2002 and May 2005, 17 patients were treated in our institution with robot-assisted laparoscopic aorto-bifemoral bypasses. Dissection was performed laparoscopically and the robot was used to make the aortic anastomosis. Operative time, clamping time, and anastomosis time, as well as blood loss and hospital stay, were used as parameters to evaluate the results and to compare the first eight (group 1) and the last nine patients (group2). Results Total median operative, clamping, and anastomosis times were 365 min (range: 225–589 min), 86 min (range: 25–205 min), and 41 min (range: 22–110 min), respectively. Total median blood loss was 1,000 ml (range: 100–5,800 ml). Median hospital stay was 4 days (range: 3–57 days). In this series 16/18 anastomoses were completed with the use of the robotic system. Three patients were converted (two in group 1, one in group 2), and one patient died postoperatively (group 1). Median clamping and anastomosis times were significantly different between groups 1 and 2 (111 min [range: 85–205 min] versus 57.5 min [range: 25–130 min], p < 0.01 and 74 min [range: 40–110 min] versus 36 min [range: 22–69 min], p < 0.01, respectively) Total operative time, blood loss, and hospital stay showed no significant difference between groups 1 and 2. Conclusions Robot-assisted aortic anastomosis was shown to have a steep learning curve with considerable reduction of clamping and anastomosis times. However, due to a longer learning curve for laparoscopic dissection of the abdominal aorta, operation times were not significantly shortened. Even with robotic assistance, laparoscopic aortoiliac surgery remains a complex procedure
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