Original URL: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/01/08/robot_vasectomy_brouhaha/

Controversy rages over robot vasectomy reversal in Florida

Inventor has 'rare combo' of robotics + goolie expertise

By Lewis Page

Posted in Science, 8th January 2010 16:21 GMT

Medical boffins in Florida have announced a breakthrough of buttock-clenching importance: Surgical robots have apparently broken the world speed record for reversing vasectomies.

“This is state-of-the-art stuff, it’s cutting-edge,” says Dr Wayne Kuang, director of Male Reproductive Health at the University of New Mexico, commenting on the developments in Florida. “It’s a natural progression from back in the days when we just had magnified eyeglasses,” he adds, puzzlingly for those - like us - who were unaware that manual snip repair is normally carried out by a surgeon using a microscope so that he can correctly identify "the microscopic tubes involved".

According to a statement issued by the University of Florida:

The findings... represent the first head-to-head [?] comparison of robot vasectomy reversal and the microscope procedure that is widely used.

But robotic vasectomy reversal is not without controversy...

The robot replumbing procedure was developed by Florida Uni's top wedding-tackle expert, Dr Sijo Parekattil, who apparently "has the rare combination of being fellowship trained in both infertility microsurgery and robotics".

It seems that Parekattil's mechanical de-jaffa-isation machine has come under fire from other docs, who say it is needlessly expensive and complicated. It seems as though sperm counts may come back somewhat faster after robotic unsnipping, perhaps due to the smaller amount of time spent by patients with their personal regions opened up, but after a while those undergoing hand repair achieve similar levels of virility.

Parekattil responds with a crushing counter-argument, however, noting that:

Another potential advantage of the robotic procedure is less discomfort for some surgeons who would otherwise stand or sit with their backs bent for extended periods over a microscope.

An impartial medi-boffin, Dr Jay Sandlow of Wisconsin Medical College, gave it as his opinion that robotic restoration of live-fire testicle capability probably wouldn't catch on. Nonetheless he applauded Parekattil's willingness to try out new and eyewatering ideas.

"In academia part of what we do is try to push the envelope and try to see what works and what doesn’t — and it’s through studies like this that we answer those questions," he commented. ®