Patient experiences of left-sided colorectal resection by robotic, conventional laparoscopic and open approaches: a qualitative study

O Claydon, J McCulloch, G C Thorpe, S Kulkarni, C Delimpalta, D Dowsett, W Ward, A Stearns, J Hernon, S Kapur, I Shaikh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Robotic surgery (RS) is increasingly employed in colorectal surgical practice, widening the range of surgical techniques offered to patients. We investigated the perceptions of patients with colorectal cancer in relation to RS, open surgery (OS) and conventional laparoscopic surgery (CLS), to identify ideas or assumptions which, in the context of shared surgeon–patient decision-making, may affect the resultant choice of surgical technique. We also investigated salient factors affecting patients’ perioperative experience, including those of RS patients, to guide improvements in care and preoperative patient preparation.

Methods: This study was conducted on patients who underwent resection of left-sided colorectal cancer at a large UK teaching hospital from November 2020 to July 2021. Purposive sampling was used to ensure a roughly equal proportion of patients who underwent RS, CLS and OS. The patients included in the study participated in semi-structured interviews six weeks postoperatively. The interview schedule allowed discussion around patients’ experience of their surgery and postoperative recovery, and their perceptions of surgical techniques. Interview transcripts were coded manually using inductive thematic analysis, and analyst triangulation was employed to refine coding schemes and ensure reliability of emerging themes.

Results: Twenty-seven patients were recruited to the study; RS n = 9 (median age 69 [range 60–80] years); CLS n = 10 (median age 72 [range 32–82] years; OS n = 8 (median age 71 [range 60–75] years). Patients understood the technological benefits of RS but were concerned by a risk of technological failure causing patient harm. OS was understood to be associated with more pain and longer recovery than RS or CLS. Patients perceived CLS to be more technically challenging compared with OS. Less pain and smaller wounds than expected were significant positive factors in the experience of RS and CLS patients specifically. Complications and emotional impact were significant factors in the experience of all groups, for which many patients felt underprepared.

Conclusions: Patients generally have a positive view of RS and technical innovation in surgery. Concerns mostly centred around failure of technology. Many patients felt unprepared for significant factors in their perioperative experience. Surgeons and healthcare providers should be prepared to address patients’ perceptions and expectations of colorectal surgery preoperatively.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)537-549
Number of pages13
JournalTechniques in Coloproctology
Issue number7
Early online date15 Feb 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023


  • Colorectal cancer
  • Colorectal surgery
  • Laparoscopic surgery
  • Laparotomy
  • Patient perceptions
  • Robotic surgery

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