Furr & Henshaw
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How safe are robotic surgeries?

As some South Carolina readers may be aware, robotic surgery has been steadily growing in popularity. As the number of robotic surgeries increases, so does the potential for surgical errors, according to some critics. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports of problems with several different types of robotic surgeries, including cuts, infections and burns. There have been 89 deaths reported since 2007.

What is concerning to medical experts is the fact that demand for the robots is being driven by very aggressive marketing. Hospitals are feeling pressured to purchase the expensive robots to compete with other hospitals that are marketing their robots. After the purchase is made, there is the temptation to use the robot as much as possible to get a return on their investment. However, there are already many state-of-the-art and minimally invasive techniques that have worked for a long time. These are now being replaced by robotic surgery, potentially adding expense for patients without adding any benefit.

A recent study published in a major medical journal reported that robotic surgery did not reduce complication rates for hysterectomies. It did, however, add over $2,000 to the cost of the surgery. The FDA is investigating the growing number of injuries reported with robotic surgery to determine if they are the result of the general increase in robotic surgeries or from problems with the robots or the surgeons.

The first of the lawsuits against the surgical robot's manufacturer has already gone to trial. In that case, the surgeons agreed to settle the malpractice claim out of court. The surgical robot manufacturer did not choose to settle and, when the case went to trial, was found not to be liable in a patient's death. In cases where a person has been injured or has suffered from complications following surgery, a personal injury attorney may be able to help them obtain compensation. If a settlement is awarded, the money can be used to pay for corrective surgery or to compensate for pain and suffering.

Source: NBC News, "Robotic surgeries on the rise, but are there risks?", June 14, 2013

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