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Da Vinci Surgical Robots Injury Overview

Since coming onto the market in the 1980s, robotic-assisted surgery represents one of the next significant advances in surgery. Intuitive Surgical manufactures and sells the da Vinci Surgical System. It has steadily grown in popularity in recent years.

Thousands of hospitals in the U.S. have at least one surgical robot. Surgeons have used the da Vinci robot in hundreds of thousands of surgical procedures. But, recent reports of mechanical complications resulting from robotic procedures are a concern. Patient injuries have caused heightened scrutiny of the da Vinci surgical robot.

Here, we'll explain when surgeons use the da Vinci Robotic System. We will also discuss some of the risks associated with the system and what to do if your loved one suffers an injury after robotic surgery.

Robotic Surgery

The da Vinci Surgical System uses several mechanical arms and a nearby console. Surgeons use its high-definition, three-dimensional system, and state-of-the-art instruments to operate on a patient's body. These features offer several advantages:

  • Using mechanical arms removes the risk of a trembling human hand missing its mark
  • The view system offers a clear line of sight to the operating area
  • Surgeons are less fatigued by lengthy surgeries

Intuitive Surgical claims these features make surgeries less invasive, resulting in less blood loss and shorter recovery periods.

Due to its viewing system and mechanical arms, medical professionals often use surgical robots for procedures in small, hard-to-reach areas. Surgeons frequently use the da Vinci Surgical System for the following procedures:

  • Hysterectomies
  • Gallbladder removals
  • Heart surgery
  • Weight loss surgeries
  • Organ transplants
  • Minimally invasive surgeries
  • Hernia repair
  • Fibroid removal
  • Colorectal procedures

Doctors use these devices in urology and general surgery as well. For example, some estimate that surgeons use robots in 85% of all prostate removal surgeries. Future uses of surgical robots may include treating cancer in the head and neck.

Injuries Caused by da Vinci Surgical Robots

The growth of robotic surgery has led to increased reports of injuries linked to da Vinci Surgical systems. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tracks reports of medical device problems, including injuries and malfunctions related to robotic surgery and other medical devices. The FDA tracks this information in its MAUDE system.

Common mechanical problems reportedly include the following:

  • Malfunctioning arms
  • Control freezes
  • Electrical problems
  • Sparking

In some cases, technicians have to restart the surgical systems during surgery. Many times, surgeons have had to switch to hands-on surgical procedures when surgical robots malfunction. This increases the patient's chance of developing an infection.

Common patient injuries reportedly include:

  • Organ and tissue punctures
  • Infections
  • Electrical burns
  • Breathing problems
  • Shoulder pain
  • Internal scarring
  • Pain and nerve damage
  • Bleeding

Also, the recovery time for robotic surgery tends to be as long or longer than traditional surgeries.

FDA Scrutiny

The FDA recently renewed its focus on Intuitive Surgical and the da Vinci Surgical System. In March 2013, the FDA issued a voluntary request that hospitals and healthcare workers provide adverse event reports on surgical robots.

The FDA discovered several issues using robotic devices with Intuitive Surgical and medical facilities. Some of these included the following:

  • Failure to report updated device usage information
  • Failing to report injuries associated with the system
  • Failing to inform the FDA that the da Vinci System was no longer safe for thyroid removal surgery

In July 2013, the FDA issued a "warning letter" to Intuitive demanding that it correct all federal violations or face fines and equipment seizure. Later this same year, an article in "Obstetrics and Gynecology" reported that having robotic surgery can increase a patient's risk of complications. This was not the only study to report such findings.

Legal Claims for Injuries Caused by Robotic Surgery

Patients injured after robotic surgery have filed claims against Intuitive Surgical. The same is true for families of patients who died following robot surgeries. Victims' family members can file wrongful death lawsuits against the da Vinci surgical system's manufacturer.

Lawsuits alleging patient injuries can involve claims of product liability or medical malpractice. Product liability lawsuits focus on product defects or malfunctions. Malpractice claims focus on a facility's failure to maintain surgical robot systems. They may also involve negligence on the part of medical professionals.

Doctors who perform da Vinci robotic surgery may be liable for damages if their treatment falls below a reasonable standard of care. For example, a medical malpractice lawsuit may be appropriate if the surgeon had inadequate training before using a da Vinci surgical robot. It may also apply if the surgeon misuses a surgical robot.

Talk to an Injury Attorney About Your Personal Injury Claim

You may need painful corrective surgeries if you suffered harm during a da Vinci procedure. You'll also get large medical bills. A product liability lawsuit can help you receive compensation for these bills. Your attorney can also demand compensation for lost wages, future income, and pain and suffering.

Since these cases are complex, you should contact an experienced product liability attorney for help.

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