Imagine your doctor recommends routine spleen removal surgery. When discussing your surgical options, the doctor tells you about da Vinci®- an increasingly used surgical robot. The doctor raves about the safety, dependability, and ease of recovery following robotic surgery. Assured of the low-risk nature of the procedure, you agree to have the massive, multi-armed robot perform your surgery. You are reassured that your doctor will be controlling the robot from a computer screen a few feet away from the operating table. However, unbeknownst to anyone, the robot accidentally punctures your lower intestine during the surgery. The injury is not discovered until two weeks later, after it is too late to save you from the fatal infection you developed from your punctured intestine.
Why do people choose robotic surgery?
Both Intuitive Surgical® the manufacturer of da Vinci, and many individuals within the medical community emphasize the many advantages of robotic surgery:
A) Robotic hands do not shake like a human surgeon’s might. Due to increased accuracy, incisions and holes made by robots tend to be smaller and more precise, and therefore patients bleed less and recover much faster;
B) Surgeons work long hours and perform several procedures each day, often suffering from lack of sleep. Many complications can arise during surgery due to a doctor’s fatigue. Therefore, during robotic surgery- the doctor controls the robot’s arms by using hand controls on a computer a few feet away from the patient. This method of surgery allegedly reduces doctor fatigue and lessens the chances of fatigue-caused errors.
Because of the supposed increased efficiency and reliability of robotic surgery, da Vinci robots are now commonly found in hospitals. Doctors routinely use the $1.8 million robots for procedures such as; transplanting organs, shrinking stomachs, removing prostates, wombs, spleens, gallbladders, and fixing heart valves.
FDA investigation of robotic surgery risks:
According to reports received by the Food and Drug Administration, the number of adverse events occurring during robotic surgeries seems to be on the rise in recent years. It is unclear whether the increased negative reports are actually due to a rising number of malfunctions, or simply because use of the robot has increased and/or reporting has increased. Therefore, the FDA is conducting an investigative survey of da Vinci surgeons due to the increase of numbers of reports received.
Furthermore, on May 8, 2013, Intuitive Surgical® issued an “urgent medical device notification.” Intuitive warned in this Notification that one of the instruments used with the da Vinci robotic system may cause burns while operating inside the patients. These burned are caused by certain version of Hot Shears™ Monopolar Curved Scissors (MCS) which Intuitive Surgical® is now stating may develop “micro-cracks” near then end of the scissors and may leak and create “a pathway for electrosurgical energy to leak to tissue during use and potentially cause thermal injury.” These cracks are tiny and may not be visible to the user.
A number of deaths have been reported, including a 24 year-old woman who died after a routine robotic hysterectomy from internal burns and a nicked blood vessel. Non-fatal horror stories include the da Vinci perforating one patient’s colon, and a robotic arm grasping tissue and not releasing it. Surgeons had to completely shut down the robot to open the da Vinci’s grasper and release the tissue. Another instance involves a heavy robotic arm hitting a woman in the face while performing a hysterectomy. Once again, causing doctors to stop the da Vinci surgery and change to a more invasive procedure.
The most commonly reported injuries that have been associated with the da Vinci surgical robot include:
- Electrical burns
- Abnormal Bleeding
- Organ damage
- Cut Bile Duct
- Damaged blood vessels
- Nerve injury
If you choose to undergo robotic surgery, be sure to explore all of the risks of the procedure and look into reports of adverse events during similar surgeries. In the unfortunate instance that you are injured by a robotic surgical machine, make sure to contact an attorney at The Rothenberg Law Firm LLP to discuss your case. With over 40 years of experience in helping injured clients, we will work hard to protect your rights.