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Robotic surgeons: helping or hurting patients in Connecticut?


Posted by Thomas Pettinicchi of D'Amico & Pettinicchi, LLC on Apr 16, 2013 in Surgical Errors

Innovations are constantly being developed to make medical procedures safer, faster, better and more cost-effective. In general, new products and technologies are thoroughly tested to make sure that they are safe and valuable. Unfortunately, many times the actual effectiveness of a new system is not fully realized until it has been used or performed in real hospitals on real patients.

Too often, these patients end up being victims of a surgical error or medical mistake. New processes may perform well in theory or in experiments, but it is not until they are utilized in real-world environments that they may start to show some flaws.

One relatively new technology that has been adopted widely in a number of hospitals across Connecticut and nationwide is robotic surgeons. These da Vinci robots are operated by human doctors, who have stated that they like using the robot during certain invasive surgical procedures. Surgeons who use the robot can reportedly avoid excessive bleeding and see much better during a surgery. Anecdotally, doctors also believe patients suffer through less pain after procedures performed using a da Vinci robot.

However, recent reports indicate that these robots may not be as impressive as previously thought. Doctors can still make mistakes during a surgery, which the robot will also perform. And at least one surgeon has questioned whether or not hospitals adopted the da Vinci robots too quickly and without more extensive evaluation. Despite a number of safety features, the robots have reportedly malfunctioned during surgery. The Food and Drug Administration has received hundreds of complaints about the performance of the robots. Whether these issues are attributed to the human or robot involved in a procedure remains to be confirmed.

Patients may not always be fully informed of what to expect during a surgical procedure. This can create a sense of unease and anxiety, especially when a mistake has been made during surgery. Victims of these incidents have the right to hold a negligent or reckless surgeon responsible for the damages that have been experienced as a result of a medical error.

Source: The Sentinel, "FDA examines robotic surgery after hundreds of reports of problems," Naomi Creason, April 9, 2013