On September 4, 2014, azcentral.com reported that more and more hospitals are buying robotic arms, such as the da Vinci Surgical System, to help doctors perform minimally invasive operations. During such a procedure, as unitypoint.org stated, “A very small 3D camera and dime-sized surgical instruments are placed inside the patient through tiny incisions. The camera gives the surgeon a magnified 360-degree view of the operative field.” The surgeon sits at a console and operates these instruments via robotic arms that are attached to hand and foot controls at his console. A second surgeon is supposed to sit beside the patient to make sure nothing goes wrong.
HOW ROBOTIC ARM SURGERIES GO WRONG
“The primary benefit [of robotic arm surgery] to the patient is less post-operative pain, less bleeding, a shorter hospital stay and earlier resumption of normal activity,” one surgeon told AZ Central reporters. “When comparing traditional laparoscopy to robotic surgery, the robot boasts advantages such as improved visualization through 3-D imaging and improved instrument precision, dexterity, and range of motion. Because of these benefits, surgeons can perform safer surgery as well as perform procedures that were traditionally exclusive to large incision surgery.”
Unfortunately, not every patient experiences these benefits. On September 30, oregonlive.com reported that a woman filed a medical malpractice lawsuit for injuries she suffered after part of a robotic arm broke and fell inside her stomach cavity during a 2012 operation. Not only did the surgeon fail to notice the da Vinci arm piece had fallen inside her, but he also neglected to order X-rays when she started suffering “severe, incapacitating pain,” according to her lawsuit.
Seven months later, a CT scan and X-ray revealed a metal object inside her stomach. Nine months after surgery, she underwent another operation to have the robotic arm piece removed. She’s suing the hospital, da Vinci manufacturer Intuitive Surgical, and three other defendants.
DA VINCI ROBOT STATISTICS
In 2013, nytimes.com noted that in 12 years’ time, the da Vinci robot prompted thousands of people to submit adverse event reports to the FDA.
“In the vast majority of cases, the patient was not harmed, but among the reports were 174 injuries and 71 deaths related to da Vinci surgery,” one study stated. Worse, “[researchers] concluded that adverse events associated with the da Vinci were ‘vastly underreported.’” Of those injuries that were reported to the FDA, 43 percent occurred during a hysterectomy, and about a third of the deaths occurred during a gynecological procedure.
Still, robotic surgery increased 400 percent in this country between years 2007 and 2011, nytimes.com said. And, surgeons are only becoming more creative in using the device, per The Atlantic.
“In the past few years, surgeons have been pushing to make these less invasive surgeries almost entirely invisible. Instead of cutting a tiny window in the outside of the body, they thought, why not cut one inside? Surgeons would first enter a person’s body through a ‘natural orifice’ and make one small incision, through which to access internal organs. The end result of this idea was that, in 2009, a surgeon removed a woman’s kidney through her vagina,” the October 2, 2014 article said.
Other surgeons have tinkered with the number of incisions and the size of the robotic arm.
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If you were injured as a result of a da Vinci robot mistake, attorney Chris Mellino welcomes you to contact our office for a free consultation before Ohio’s statute of limitations expires on your potential claim. You may also download Chris’ free, easy-to-read guide, Your Ohio Medical Malpractice Questions Answered, read testimonials, and learn about previous case results.