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Robots used in surgery may cause errors

Patients requiring a surgical procedure may learn that the surgeon will use a special assistant during the procedure. The assistant is not a medical resident or surgical nurse. Instead, many surgeons are utilizing a high tech robot called the Da Vinci to help guide the scalpel and create the necessary incisions. An explosion in robotic assisted surgeries has led some patients and professionals to question whether the devices are responsible for causing surgical errors.

One of the concerns is whether the surgeons have been properly trained to use the robotic arms. While the makers of the Da Vinci provide training on the robot, doctors must make their own determination as to when they are ready to utilize the device. Experts do not agree on the number of hours that a surgeon should train on a robotic arm, but a 2010 New England Journal of Medicine article suggested that a surgeon should not feel confident without first performing 150 or more procedures.

While some surgeons and their patients swear by the benefits of using the Da Vinci robots, there are concerning cases of surgical error. Whether the mistakes stem from a lack of training or otherwise, there are reports of a surgery where a robot hit a woman's face, another where a robot improperly clamped down on tissue, a robot triggered colon perforation and at least two deaths during robotic assisted surgery. Individuals who are scheduled for robotic surgery should have an in depth discussion with their surgeon about the risks and benefits. In the event that a person suffers a worsened medical condition after any type of surgery, it may be wise to consult with an experienced attorney to discuss a potential medical malpractice claim.

Source: Time, "FDA Investigating Potential Problems with Popular Surgical Robot," Lindsey Tanner, April 09, 2013

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