New Statistics Confirm Risks of Robotic Surgery

robot surgery warningsSeveral hospitals around Indiana have begun to invest in robotic surgeries.  The move is made because of perceived increased efficiency and a range of other benefits. However, there is increasing proof that there are risks involved in these technical surgeries that we haven’t yet fully understood.

Recently, researchers analyzed reports from the Food and Drug Administration documenting more than 10,000 incidents involving robotic surgeries. These incidents resulted in 144 patient fatalities, and more than 1,300 injuries between 2000 and the 2013 – nearly 1,000 injuries a year.  Many of these errors involved pieces of medical tools falling into the patient, which accounted for more than 14% of the incidents. In more than 10% of the incidents electrical sparking caused an adverse incident while the robotic surgery was in progress. In more than 8% of the cases, the robots made sudden unintended movements that caused injuries to the patient. Unintended movements seem to be the most likely to cause serious injuries. They resulted in approximately 50 injuries and at least two fatalities.

Some types of surgeries seemed to benefit more from the use of robotic devices, compared to others. For instance, robotic devices function very well during urology and gynecology procedures. However, during other types of procedures, like head and neck surgery, there was a much higher risk of complications.

According to the researchers, there is cause for alarm as far as some robotic surgeries are concerned, because there is much that we do not know about the causes of these incidents.  In fact, it is hard to understand how much of the incident was a problem intrinsic to robotic surgeries, and how much of it was a result of human error.

One of the problems is the ambiguity of the risks of robotic surgery. There is limited data that can clearly outline the exact risks associated with the surgeries. Most troubling is that it also doesn’t seem likely that hospitals are willing to give up robotic surgeries anytime soon. Many hospitals prefer to promote robotic surgeries because these are less-invasive and cause less bleeding in patients. Hospitals also believe that robotic surgeries are less likely to cause complications and patient infections.  However, researchers caution that there needs to be more investigation and research into these surgeries.  This is especially true with the kind of situations that seem to result in an increase in the robotic risks for error, increasing the potential for human errors, as well as inherent risks associated with these surgeries.

Advancements in medicine are an exciting area of growth but caution is warranted when the full implications of the technology and it’s risks are not fully understood.

The Indiana medical malpractice attorneys at Montross Miller Muller Mendelson & Kennedy, LLP are dedicated to the representation of persons injured as a result of medical negligence across Indiana, including injuries suffered during surgery of any kind.