It is the scene out of the most popular science fiction movies – a robot performing surgery. In theory it makes perfect sense; robotic surgery addresses certain human weaknesses such as the surgeon’s hands starting to shake after hours on a delicate and stressful operation. But is robotic surgery safe? And is it worth the extra cost and training necessary for its successful use?
Currently, hundreds of thousands of surgeries are performed using robotic tools, and on the whole it is considered safe. However, as the frequency of robotic surgeries rises, so does the chances of complications. Since 2007 when the technique was first introduced to perform hysterectomies, there have been over 200 reported serious injuries of which 89 had resulted in death due to complications during and following robotic surgery.
It is speculated that the use of monopolar energy, which can cause damage from sparks produced, may be the cause of the burns to the bowels, ureter, intestines and other sites which represent the majority of injuries reported. The injuries may not present at once, sometimes taking days and requiring additional procedures to pinpoint and repair. Top robotic surgery tool manufacturer Intuitive Surgical maintain that with proper use, the da Vinci surgical robot is perfectly safe.
According to the website of Massachusetts law firm Crowe & Mulvey, LLP, the potential for injury may lie primarily on the amount of training and experience of doctors and medical staff has in the proper use of the technology. When a patient suffers injury due to the improper use of robotic surgical techniques, the doctor and hospital may be found to have breached their duty of care and be civilly liable for those injuries. If you or someone close to you came back from a routine procedure using robotic surgery with serious injuries, consult with a robotic surgery lawyer at once to explain to you your options.