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Robotic Surgery Malpractice

Fairfax Injury Lawyer Brien Roche Addresses the Robotic Surgery Malpractice
Brien Roche

More and more hospitals are opting for the robotic surgeon.  The robots are expected to cut down on the error rate and occurrences of medical malpractice.  The robots are used widely in minimally invasive surgeries. In addition they can be used in the large incision open surgeries.  With a robot the surgeon sits at a remote location. He directs the hands of the robot. She uses hand and foot controls.  The surgeon can see what is going on through an endoscopic camera inside the patient’s body.

As a result the view of the surgical site is improved. Also this allows for more precise surgical cuts. As a result there is less blood loss and less need for transfusions.  Unlike the laparoscopic surgical systems, the video picture is not inverted. In other words the surgeon does not need to move the tools in the opposite direction from the desired target.

Robotic Surgery Malpractice-Who Pays

One thing that hospitals are finding is that robots produce profits.

However there are certain downsides.  There tend to be longer anesthesia and operative times. This increases the risk of compartment syndrome and cardiac arrest. In addition there is increased chance of blood loss and stroke.  In general, any patient that would be a proper candidate for laparoscopy would likewise be a candidate for robotic surgery.

Ask Questions

The patient should inquire as to several things:

  • How many of these procedures has the surgeon done.  There is a learning curve. Some doctors have said that it takes anywhere from 200 to 700 robotic surgeries for the doctor to become highly skilled.
  • How many times the doctor or anyone within his practice has had to switch to an open or laparoscopic procedure during surgery.  This happens when something goes awry.  If this is something that has happened you should ask why.
  • Likewise inquire as to the level of experience of the support staff. The support staff has a certain learning curve.

If something does go awry during your surgery you should after the surgery photograph and document by diagram the actual port positions. Knowing where the surgical incisions were made may assist your attorney.
Robotic surgery is a great advance. However it does have its pitfalls.     Call, or contact us for a free consult.

Robotic Surgery Malpractice-Are There Other Treatments

Medical malpractice lawyers need to be aware that in those hospitals where robots are in place the incidence of certain procedures tend to increase.   A March 2011 article in the journal Medical Care reported how men are treated for prostate cancer. It concluded that the treatment may be affected by the presence of the robot.   According to the study, men who live in a region where a hospital has a robot are more likely to have prostate surgery. This is compared with the rate before the advent of the robot. One reason for that may be that the technology allows the hospital to attract these patients.  However the study suggests that once a hospital secures a robot patients are more likely directed towards surgery. The robot being the preferred means.  That is, the purchase of a robot seems to be related to a change in treatment.

Prostate Treatment

Robots for prostate cancer cost between $1 million and $2.2 million.  That cost alone may drive hospitals to steer patients towards this treatment mode. This may apply even though other treatment modes are available.  Other treatment modes include radiation and hormone therapies. In addition there is what is called watchful waiting. This latter treatment may be best since prostate cancer is often a slow growing cancer.

Robotic Surgery Malpractice-Thoracic Surgery

Video-assisted thoracoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure. It is designed to treat lung cancer.  This eliminates the need to spread the ribs. All of this involves cutting a lot of muscle and destabilizing the rib cage.  This former surgery results in a two day hospital stay. The latter is multi-day.  The doctor operates through a small hole between the ribs.  Everything is observed through two ports for the video scopes. Likewise those ports are made between the ribs.  The images are projected on to monitors for the doctor to see.

In addition this is used for cancer of the esophagus and other serious thoracic conditions.

In addition new bronchoscopy systems are in use.  They allow doctors to biopsy and diagnose nodules deep within the lungs without any incisions.

Robotic Camera

Robots are also seen in thoracic surgery.  The robot offers the use of a robotic camera.  That camera provides ten-fold magnification. Also it offers three-dimensional vision.  The robot is used in those cases where the site is very narrow and small. It offers a great deal of dexterity.  In the esophagus and in the central compartment of the chest the robot is very helpful.

This is not to say that traditional open surgeries are a thing of the past.  They are not.  They are still used when removing large tumors.

Infection Control

A 2016 study found that complete removal of contamination from these devices may not be possible.  In the journal called Infection Control and Hospital Epidemiology, researchers found that surface contaminants are difficult to completely remove from these devices.  This leaves patients at risk for infection.  The study examined 132 robotic instruments over a 21 month period.  It found that cleanings were 97.6% effective for the robots.  It was 99.1% effective for ordinary instruments.

Call, or contact us for a free consult. Also for more information on robotic surgery see the pages on Wikipedia.


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