The undisclosed disclosures: Conflicts of interest in studies related to robotics in hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery

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Journal Article

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BACKGROUND: The use of robotics in hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery has increased. With this increased collaboration, there has also been a push toward improving the transparency of conflicts of interest in terms of funding provided by robotics companies. METHODS: Studies with ≥1 American author published between 2016 and 2020 discussing robotic hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery were included in the analysis. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Open Payments Program was used to evaluate the accuracy of industry payment disclosures. Conflict of interest was defined as a lack of disclosure of ≥$100 funding from any robotics company in the United States. The primary outcome of this study was to determine the efficacy of the current standard conflict of interest reporting in surgery. RESULTS: A total of 355 studies (2,413 authors) were included. Of the studies that received robotics funding (n = 133), 20.3% did not disclose their conflicts of interest, whereas 79.7% had a conflict of interest disclosure. However, most of the disclosures (76.5%) were inaccurate. CONCLUSION: The findings of this study require an update in journal policies to ensure the accurate disclosure of conflicts of interest in robotic hepatobiliary and pancreatic surgery studies. Similarly, the investigators should ensure that their disclosures are accurate. Finally, surgeons must be more on top of their relationships with these companies and consider their vulnerability to bias.


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