The health safety watchdog HIQA is to carry out an assessment of robot-assisted keyhole surgery.
HIQA says it is undertaking the probe at the request of the HSE.
Robot-assisted surgery is an advanced method of keyhole surgery which has applications in a wide range of surgeries in including procedures in urology, gynaecology, cardiology and diseases of the head and neck.
The assessment is to be carried out by an expert group under HIQA's director of Health Technology Assessment, Dr Mairin Ryan.
HIQA stressed that the request from the HSE to investigate robotic surgery had not arisen from any clinical incident or adverse event with this type of surgery.
Dr Ryan told irishhealth.com that the health executive had asked HIQA to assess robot keyhole surgery in terms of evidence of its clinical benefit and cost-effectiveness and to assess the level of staff training that would be required with the equipment.
She said the HSE wanted to review the evidence of the effectiveness of this type of surgery before making a decision on whether to introduce it into the public health system, as the equipment involved was expensive.
At present, laparoscopic robot surgery equipment costs up to €2 million to buy and around €500,000 per year to run, according to HIQA.
HIQA said that laparoscopic robot-assisted surgery is currently carried out at Cork University Maternity Hospital, the Galway Clinic and the Mater Private Hospital.