Robots have been assisting surgeons in the operation room since the 1980s, but as technology has advanced robots are being used to perform more complex operations. As Da Vinci Robots have come under fire for many medical malpractice and wrongful death lawsuits, patients considering robotic surgery should be aware of the associated risks.
Robotically performed surgery is supposed to be more accurate and better for patients. Robots can perform long surgeries without getting fatigued like their human counterparts. Often the procedures are less invasive since the robots do not need to make as large of an incision and healing times are shortened. During surgery the robot cuts a small incision to isolate the problem area and cauterizes the surrounding tissue. The process results in less blood loss and tissue damage.
Although it depends on the robot used and the procedure being performed, typically the surgeon controls the robot using nothing more than a joystick and console system. The surgeon can even perform the procedure from a remote location.
Cause for concern
The two main recurring issues with robot surgeries are operator inexperience and machine malfunction. Although surgeons may feel comfortable performing robotic surgeries after only a few training sessions, it can take hundreds of training hours and practice to become an expert. Inexperience can lead to patient injury and death.
Design flaws and machine malfunctions are another problem. The unit is only as good as the people designing and programming it. While they are often equipped with self-learning algorithms, calculations can only account for so much.
Low risk does not translate to risk free, and as with any surgery, there are risks involved. Remember, while robotic surgery can be a safer option, the surgeon handling the controls and the robot need to be up to specs. Before consenting to a robotic surgery make sure you understand all the potential risks along with the touted benefits.