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Is robotic surgery as safe as it sounds?

Written by Ankin Law Office

As technology continues to advance and change many areas of regular life, it has also begun to transform the way surgeons perform their craft. Since the year 2000, surgeries have been performed across the nation with the help of large robotic machines. The machines often consist of three- or four-armed robots that surgeons control using a computer system. Using small cameras attached to one of the robotic arms, doctors can clearly see inside the patient’s body. The other arms are fitted with surgical instruments. Altogether, these robots are supposed to create a more sterile surgical environment, improved accuracy and result in shorter healing times than seen with traditional laparoscopic surgeries.

Increased use results in increased problem

According to the New York Daily News, nearly 1,400 hospitals across the nation have at least one robotic surgery system. While some may see it as progress in the right direction, many doctors are alarmed at how quickly these machines are being phased in for regular use. In 2012, 367,000 surgeries were performed with the use of robotics. In 2008, that number was only 114,000. Problems with the devices are also being reported at greater levels than ever. From Jan 2012 to April 2013, 500 problems were reported with these machines, most of them leading to surgical errors that caused patients real harm. This increase in errors has led the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which oversees use of all medical devices, to begin a survey of surgeons who use the robotic machines in an effort to see why the error rates are rising so quickly.

Deadly mistakes

Many families have seen the deadly injury to patients that can occur with the use of robotic machines in surgery settings. The New York Daily News reports that a Chicago man was recently killed after having robotic spleen surgery. The surgery left the man with punctured intestines that led to a fatal infection to which he succumbed. Expert testimony stated that using the robot for such a routine surgery was unnecessary and one of the doctors was not properly trained to handle the robot competently. A jury awarded the man’s family $7.5 million for their loss.

According to the Boston Herald, a similar story played out for another family. A Boston woman learned that she had advanced uterine cancer and opted to get a hysterectomy using a robotic device because she was told it would allow her to start chemotherapy sooner. During the surgery, the robot tore her intestines, which resulted in a large infection. This infection required additional surgeries and kept the woman from receiving chemotherapy. She died just 2 years after her initial surgery.

Those who have been injured in a robotic surgery can find relief for their injuries with the help of a Chicago medical malpractice attorney. These injury matters are extremely complex and patients are encouraged to seek the guidance of counsel as soon as possible.

Categories: Medical Malpractice