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Surgical robots far from perfect, study shows

Precise surgical robots were introduced years ago into surgical procedures. They were heralded as a new generation of surgical tools. But, statistics gathered by the Food and Drug Administration from 2000 to 2013 have shown that the robotic surgeries have made their fair share of mistakes.

In the 13 years the data studied, surgical robots have been responsible for 144 deaths. In addition, they have been responsible for more than 1,000 injuries, including burn injuries due to sparks, extended surgical times due to system errors, broken surgical equipment left inside a patient and uncontrolled movement. But, this represents a tiny fraction of the total number of surgeries performed by robots — nearly two million. 

The majority of all the surgeries were urological and gynecological in nature. But robots are also used in riskier surgeries, like lung, heart, neck and head procedures. These kinds of surgeries had higher rates of deaths and injuries — 10 times higher, in fact. Overall, about 550 out of every 100,000 patients reported a worsened condition after the procedure.

The study does not give a comparison between robotic surgeries and those done by humans in terms of death and injury. It also does not give a conclusion about the benefits of the robots. But, the study does indicate that further safety measures must be implemented when machinery is used in delicate surgery.

Even when a robot is to blame, the hospital in which the surgery is performed may still be held liable for injury. Anyone who has been victim of these types of surgical errors may benefit from contacting a medical malpractice attorney who may be able to help you claim compensation.

 

Source: BBC, “Robotic surgery linked to 144 deaths in the US,” Staff Report, July 22, 2015

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