The promise of robotic surgery is exciting.
A recent study has raised additional questions about the need for robotic-assisted surgery in many cases. The research suggests that the da Vinci surgical robot should be reserved for much more complicated procedures that cannot be easily handled by laparoscopic surgery.
At the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists annual meeting, researchers from St. Lukes-Roosevelt Hospital Center reported that 10% of patients operated on through robotic surgery for pelvic lesions suffered significant postoperative complications, compared to 7% of those who underwent laparoscopy. Patients are more likely to suffer complications, pay more, and are under the knife longer than patients treated through laparoscopic surgery.
The da Vinci Surgical System, first introduced in 2000, 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. The use of surgical robots has increased dramatically throughout the United States.
As concerns continue to mount over the safety of the da Vinci surgical robot, and claims begin to arise, other recent studies have come to similar conclusions. Earlier this month, Intuitive Surgical, the da Vinci manufacturer, 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 faced dozens of da Vinci robotic surgery lawsuits, alleging that patients suffered burns, tears, and other injuries caused by the machine’s defective design, inadequate warnings, and a lack of proper training provided by the manufacturer for surgeons. These have mostly been resolved. Few lawyers are taking product liability robotic surgery cases in 2023. But there are problems that still remain.
Nine Problems with Robotic Surgery
- Technical malfunctions: like any technology, the da Vinci system can experience technical malfunctions, which can cause delays in surgery or even lead to the need for additional procedures.
- User error: the system requires a highly skilled surgeon to operate, and user error can lead to complications such as excessive bleeding, injury to surrounding tissue, or unintended consequences of the procedure.
- Cost: da Vinci surgery is more expensive than traditional laparoscopic surgery, which can burden patients and healthcare systems.
- Limited dexterity: despite the advanced technology, the da Vinci system still has limited dexterity compared to the human hand, which can impact the ability of the surgeon to perform complex procedures.
- Longer recovery time: some patients report longer recovery times after da Vinci surgery, which can impact their quality of life and ability to return to normal activities.
- Difficulty in training: due to its complex nature, it can be challenging for surgeons to receive adequate training on using the da Vinci system, increasing the risk of complications.
- Inadequate patient selection: the da Vinci system may not be appropriate for every patient, and incorrect patient selection can lead to poor outcomes.
- Lack of standardization: there is a lack of standardization in the training and use of the da Vinci system, which can impact the quality and consistency of results.
- Limited access: not all hospitals and surgical centers have access to the da Vinci system, which can limit patient access to this type of minimally invasive surgery.
What Are the 10 Most Common Robotic Surgeries?
The da Vinci surgical system is commonly used for a variety of minimally invasive procedures, including:
- Prostatectomy (removal of the prostate gland)
- Hysterectomy (removal of the uterus)
- Gastrointestinal surgery (such as colorectal, gastric and esophageal surgery)
- Heart and lung procedures (such as mitral valve repair and thoracic surgery) Gynecologic surgery (such as cervical and ovarian surgery)
- Head and neck surgery (such as thyroid and parathyroid surgery)
- Bariatric surgery (such as gastric bypass and sleeve gastrectomy)
- Gynecologic surgery (such as cervical and ovarian surgery
- Urologic surgery (such as nephrectomy and pyeloplasty)
- Hernia repair
- Liver resection