The risks of robotic surgery

On Behalf of | Jul 24, 2015 | Surgical Errors

New Mexico doctors who are engaged in surgical procedures involving robotic assistance may be interested in a study recently conducted by researchers from MIT, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and Rush Medical Center. After analyzing over 10,000 incident reports filed with the FDA between 2000 and 2013, the study’s authors found that robots were involved in procedures resulting in 144 patient deaths and nearly 1,400 injuries.

Because the reports were largely sketchy in detail, the researchers say there is no way to be certain in most cases just how much the robot contributed to the surgical problems. All surgery carries with it a modicum of risk, but human surgical error or robot equipment malfunction may also have played roles in these procedures. Robots are becoming increasingly popular for relatively low-risk, minimally invasive surgical procedures, but the study’s authors warn this trend may need to be reassessed.

In addition to death or injury caused when a robot moved in an unexpected direction, robots have also been linked to an increased risk of surgical implements or other ancillary items left inside the patient. Pieces of tools or robotic parts falling into a patient and sparks from faulty electrical connections have also been reported, further adding to the risk. Robots fared better in gynecological and urological procedures than in heart, neck and head surgeries.

A medical malpractice attorney who is representing a person who has been injured in one of these types of procedures will often review the patient’s medical records and obtain the opinions of surgical experts in an attempt to determine the cause of the injury. If it is found that negligence of a health care practitioner or facility was the contributing factor, legal counsel may determine that filing a lawsuit on behalf of the client seeking damages from the responsible party is an appropriate path.


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