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Da Vinci Robot May Be To Blame For Some Surgical Errors

Have you experienced complications after having surgery to remove your gallbladder or prostate? A hysterectomy? Heart valve repair? An organ transplant? Gastric surgery? If your procedure was done with the da Vinci robot, you are not alone and you may have a defective product lawsuit or medical malpractice case.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently began an investigation of robotic surgeries after receiving an uptick in reports of serious complications, including five fatalities. In 2012 alone, close to 370,000 surgeries were performed in the United States using the da Vinci robot.

Surgeons who use the robot sit in front of a computer, guiding the robot as it completes a surgical procedure. The robot has been credited with lessening patients' bleed rates during surgery and may allow doctors to perform more procedures in a day's time because the robotic surgeries are less tiring.

Complications reported to the FDA include:

  • A nicked blood vessel during a hysterectomy that was fatal for the patient
  • A perforated colon that was connected to a da Vinci prostate surgery
  • A mechanical malfunction of the robotic arm that required a system shut down to release the patient's tissue

There are over 500 complaint reports about the robotic surgery technology in the FDA database; the vast majority of which were filed by the device's maker, Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

About 1,400 hospitals across the U.S. have the robotic surgery system. Dr. Martin Makary, a surgeon at Johns Hopkins, says the technology has been adopted in far too many locations and that hospitals may be misleading patients about its benefits.

Source: CBS News, "FDA eyes increase in freak accidents during robotic surgeries," April 9, 2013

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