Robotic Surgery: Beware Of The Learning Curve

Da Vinci Robotic Surgery Lawsuits

A hot new trend in general surgery for the past few years is robotic surgery, most notably is the “da Vinci” robot. However, the FDA has found many instances of “adverse events” and 70 deaths since 2009, sometimes complications are unavoidable, many times though, complications are the result of medical malpractice.

Many healthcare providers claim that surgery using the robots is safer and less invasive because the robot arms can get into the body with fewer and smaller incisions and the robot arms are more maneuverable than a surgeon’s hands and wrists or the tools at the end of a laparoscopic trocar, the scope arms used in many surgeries today that replace many “open procedures”, procedures requiring large incisions for the surgeons hands to get into the surgical field.

In the hands of a well-qualified surgeon these techniques can be beneficial to the patient. However, a surgeon performing laparoscopic surgery, or now robotic surgery, must not only be well trained and experienced to perform the surgery well, they must have the mental and physical skill to operate the equipment safely and effectively. Some people, including surgeons, just are not the best with cutting edge technology, including in the operating room.

If you have this surgery you must ask the surgeon: how many procedures have you performed with this technique? what training did you have? and most important, what is your complication rate with this procedure and using the robot? You may be surprised that many general surgeons have little experience with the robotic techniques. It is much easier for many surgeons to see what they are doing and what they are about to cut or slice with their own eyes rather than through a scope or on a computer monitor. Imagine picking up a pen with your hands, much easier than using the arcade claw machine to pick up a stuffed animal, right? Robot Operations are NOT PROVEN: “Robot operations haven’t been proven in randomized trials to offer significant health benefits compared to standard, less-invasive surgery and multiple studies show they can cost thousands of dollars more.”

So why do doctors without enough experience perform robotic surgery when safer options exist? Money! after all medicine is a business. See recent Bloomberg article “Robot Surgery Damaging Patients Rises With Marketing”.

“Robotic surgeries are on the rise, fueled by aggressive marketing by doctors, hospitals and Intuitive Surgical Inc. (ISRG), which manufactures the $1.5 million robot. Advertising on hospital and doctor websites, YouTube videos, billboards, and on radio and television has hyped the advantages of robotic surgeries, often claimed fewer complications without proof, and ignored contradictory studies finding no advantage in some cases.”

For my St Louis, Missouri and southern Illinois clients, just search “da vinci” and St Louis and you will see all the local healthcare providers marketing this procedure. Additionally, the aggressive marketing of the robotic surgery is attracting more and more surgeons to perform the surgery using robots even when they have not gained enough experience. Don’t be a victim on the surgeon’s learning curve! “Reports of injuries linked to robotic surgery have more than doubled in the first eight months of this year [2013], based on when the reports were received by the FDA, compared with the same period last year.

We have seen doctors that cannot handle laparoscopic surgery and perform them without adequate training, I predict you will see the same thing with robotic surgery. See our gallbladder medical malpractice lawyer page. This discusses some of the same issues of the learning curve with lap-choli cases, “because this is a common outpatient procedure, many doctors who are not properly trained, perform this procedure routinely, eventually their poor skills catch up to them by injuring someone.”

But the doctor will claim “I have done 500 of these procedures an no one else was hurt!” Even though it is clear their surgical technique is not safe. I can probably run the stop sign in my neighborhood everyday, but one day, I will hurt someone. Does that mean running a stop sign is not negligent or wrong? I got away with it 500 times? Clearly the answer is no. Bad technique and disregard for patient safety will go unnoticed, but the lack of skill will catch up to the doctor; unfortunately the victim will be a trusting and unknowing patient who will end up severely injured or dead.

If you or a family member have been hurt by a doctor using a da vinci robot call us today for a free consultation and advice about your case. A consultation with our St Louis medical malpractice lawyers is free of charge. Call us today at (314) 863-0500 or contact us online.