Robotic Surgery Not Needed For Most Procedures: Study

A new study raises additional questions about the need for robotic assisted surgery in many cases, finding that patients operated on by the da Vinci surgical robot for the treatment of pelvic lesions are more likely to suffer complications, pay more, and are under the knife longer than patients treated through laparascopic surgery.  

The research was presented at the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists annual meeting.

Researchers from St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City reported that 10% of patients operated on through robotic surgery for pelvic lesions suffered major postoperative complications, compared to 7% of those who underwent laparoscopy.

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While researchers said that the complication rate difference was not significant given the size of the study, which looked at only 77 surgeries, it did suggest that there may be no benefit or need for robot-assisted surgery in these cases, since laparoscopy was faster and cost less.

The researchers suggested that robotic surgery should be reserved for procedures that were much more complicated, and which could not be as easily handled by laparascopic surgery.

Concerns Over Robotic Surgery

Other studies in recent months have come to similar conclusions, as concerns mount over the safety of the da Vinci surgical robot.

The da Vinci Surgical System is a complex robot that has been heavily marketed and increasingly used in recent years for a number of surgical procedures to provide a less invasive surgery, which reduces recovery time. The device is controlled by a surgeon looking at a virtual reality representation of the patient’s internal organs and manipulating its four metal arms with hand and foot controls.

Since it was introduced in 2000, use of the da Vinci robot-assisted surgical system has increased dramatically throughout the United States amid aggressive marketing and promotions by the manufacturer, Intuitive Surgical. However, concerns have also emerged about the risk of patients suffering internal burns and other injuries, leading the FDA to launch a probe earlier this year into the safety of the da Vinci surgical robot.

Earlier this month, Intuitive Surgical, the manufacturer of the da Vinci surgical robot, warned that cauterizing scissors used with the robot, known as Hot Shears, could have micro-cracks that could cause patients to suffer electrical burns to internal organs.

The company faces dozens of da Vinci robotic surgery lawsuits, which allege that patients suffered burns, tears and other injuries that were caused by the defective design of the machine, inadequate warnings and a lack of proper training provided by the manufacturer for surgeons.

Robot Expense May Not Translate to Health Benefits

The da Vinci robot costs between $1 million and $2.25 million for a hospital to purchase, depending on the model. It then costs another $140,000 a year in maintenance and between $1,500 and $2,000 for replacement parts after every robotic surgery.

An increasing number of reports have suggested that the robot is linked to surgical complications such as electrical burns to internal organs, cuts, tears, and other problems. There have been reports of surgical tools falling into patients’ bodies and patients being severely injured or killed by a cascade of complications as the result of da Vinci surgical surgery.

The first da Vinci lawsuit trial is currently underway in Washington state court, involving a wrongful death lawsuit brought by the family of a man who died due to complications following da Vinci robot surgery.

The family of Fred Taylor alleges that da Vinci robot problems during a prostatectomy in 2008 resulted in heart attacks, kidney damage, lung damage and other problems that led to his death. The surgeon who led the procedure testified that Intuitive Surgical gave him one day of training and assisted him on a couple surgeries before telling him he was certified to use the complex surgical robot.


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