Injury And Even Death: Problems With Robotic Surgery

The medical field has seen many advances over recent years that have served to improve health and lengthen lifespan. Robotic surgery uses high-tech equipment that can pinpoint precise areas of the body for tissue removal or repair. However, technology can also bring increased risk of injury or death if the equipment fails or the operator is careless.

About Robotic Surgery

Robotic surgery uses a computer to remotely operate tiny instruments that perform the surgical procedure. Essentially, robotic surgery works by matching the physician’s hand movements after the instruments are inserted into the body. A very small camera, attached to a thin tube (called an endoscope), allows the physician to see the area being treated. Robotic surgery allows the physician to make smaller incisions than would otherwise be possible. This less-invasive surgery generally allows for faster recovery times. However, robotic surgery generally takes longer than traditional surgery and is not available at all hospitals.

Problems with Robotic Surgery

As with other new technologies, physicians require intensive training on the equipment before it can be used properly. Additionally, technical malfunctions can occur that require surgeons to abandon robotic techniques and resume traditional methods. The robotic equipment has also been associated with perforation of adjacent organs, objects being left in the incision site and increased risk of complications after surgery.

Other problems include increased scarring and tissue burns, which have been responsible for at least 5 deaths. Because the equipment is now heavily marketed to surgeons, as well as to their patients, concerns about adequate skill levels and proper equipment maintenance are coming to the forefront of the medical community. Robot-related surgical mistakes have entered the news, and the safety concerns are deepening. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is taking a fresh look at robotic surgery, training methods for the equipment, and related issues.

DaVinci Robotic Surgery

One of the most intensely marketed robotic systems is the DaVinci robotic system. This technology is being touted for prostate surgeries, hysterectomies, urinary system surgeries and other procedures because of the minimally invasive technique and fast recovery time. However, a number of injuries are being associated with the use of the equipment, including burns to internal organs, punctured blood vessels, bladder tears, severed ureters and problems with incontinence or impotence after surgery. Subsequent surgery to repair organs may also be necessary.

Sources:
http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-08/robot-surgery-damaging-patients-rises-with-marketing.html
http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/04/09/robot-surgery-fda/2067629/