FDA Warns Doctors About Risks from Electrical Operating Tables Moving During Surgery

Adverse events have been reported involving electrical operating tables moving during medical procedures, which could result in serious and potentially life-threatening risks for patients

Federal health officials are warning about rare, but serious risks that may result from electrical operating room tables moving unexpectedly during surgical procedures, indicating that medical providers can follow a series of steps to protect patients from these avoidable surgical complications.

In a letter to healthcare providers and medical facilities sent on February 29, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) indicated that a number of adverse events have been reported when electrical operating room tables moved suddenly, calling for increased awareness of the risk.

Electrical operating tables are commonly used during surgery and other minor procedures, allowing healthcare providers to move the patient up and down, as well as rotate for better positioning, to give surgeons better access to surgical sites during medical procedures. However, reports suggest that some doctors have experienced problems positioning the tables, or experienced unintended movements, which could directly result in serious patient injury, or delay surgical procedures, which may also result in life-threatening complications.

The notice was not specific to any particular product or design problems. However, the FDA indicates that there are a number of steps that can be taken to eliminate the risks associated with operating room tables moving during surgery.

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The recommendations outlined by the FDA include:

  • Review the manufacturer’s instructions for the surgical table and become familiar with how to use the device properly.
  • Make sure to train staff appropriately on how to use the table.
  • Check for blocks or other obstructions before positioning the table. If an obstruction is found, make sure to return the table to a neutral position. Then, remove the obstruction before returning the table to the original position.
  • Adhere to a regular maintenance schedule and conduct regular safety checks.
  • Do not exceed the maximum load limit.

The agency indicates it will continue to work with manufacturers, healthcare facilities, and other organizations to ensure users have training on the proper use of the tables and are aware of the potential risks.

The FDA also said it will continue to monitor reports of injuries and analyze data related to operating room tables to help further understand the risks posed to patients, and will continue to inform the public and healthcare providers of any developments related to this issue.

Healthcare providers should report any adverse events or suspected problems linked to electrical operating tables to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program.


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