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Doctor says inexperience cause of fatal robotic surgery mishaps

Last month on our Chicago medical malpractice law blog, we had questioned whether doctors receive sufficient training before performing robotic surgeries on patients. The da Vinci robotic surgery system, which is manufactured by Intuitive Surgical Inc., was used to perform about 400,000 procedures in the U.S. last year, including hysterectomies, heart valve repair surgeries and organ removal procedures.

Although the robotic system is becoming very popular, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has also become quite concerned about some of the complaints it has received regarding the device. Complaints and lawsuits have been filed by patients who have been harmed by surgical errors after undergoing robotic surgery procedures, and at least five patients have died from these errors.

While the complaints have the FDA and patient safety groups questioning the safety of the robotic devices, others are questioning whether some doctors are experienced enough to use the devices during surgical procedures. According to one doctor, the only reason patients have been seriously harmed during robotic surgeries appears to be because doctors had made errors while using the robotic system to perform operations.

In response to the public’s concerns about the safety of robotic surgeries, the surgeon argues that these procedures are still safer for patients as long as their robotic surgeries are performed by a skilled and experienced surgeon. Doctors claim that robotic surgeries may be safer options for patients because patients typically experience less blood loss and less pain after surgery. Patients also tend to have a faster recovery.

Although surgeons are certainly responsible for performing surgeries correctly and with the utmost care, patients can also increase their safety by making sure their robotic operations are performed by doctors who have experience performing specific surgeries using the da Vinci robotic system. Before undergoing surgery, patients should know how long their doctors have been performing surgeries either using the robotic system or not. Patients should also know how many procedures their doctors have performed in the past.

Source: Standard-Examiner, “Ogden doctor: Most robotic surgery woes linked to human error,” Jamie Lampros, April 27, 2013


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