Lawsuits Pile Up Against Da Vinci Robot Surgery

The wonder robot has been legally performing surgeries for 13 years now. Is it everything we thought it would be?



In the year 2000 the Da Vinci surgical robot was approved by the FDA to perform surgeries on adults and minors. The 1.7 million dollar machine allows surgeons to perform minimally invasive complex surgery. The surgeon controls the robot by manipulating a series of foot pedals and two hand controllers while peering at a 3D image of the surgical site. It is able to turn shaky movements of the doctor into exact instrumental movements. Since its’ introduction, 2500 surgical robots have been installed in hospitals around the world and have performed 1.5 million surgeries.

The problem, as with anything, is not all of the surgeries have gone as planned. One particular incident happened in 2007 when part of the robot’s arm fell off while performing surgery inside a prostate cancer patient. It was bad enough that the urologists needed to make the incision larger in order to remove the part that broke off. This kind of mistake almost always results in a lawsuit which is why doctor’s insurance coverage is so high. The problem is not necessarily the machine.

Patient Complaining of Injuries

It seems to be one of the most common issue patients have are burn related injuries. The Federal Drug Administration’s database, current lawsuits, and attorney’s dealing with the cases all point to a fairly common issue: Heat Related injuries.

“When performing surgery on sensitive organs like the intestines or the ureter, temperature is a important factor.” Says a spokes person for the Orlando personal injury lawyer group. “Patients who are in pain will come to us and inquire about what is involved with a medical malpractice lawsuit. It is not until we pull the medical records that we find the link between the burn and the Da Vinci robot.”

When these injuries do happen, the doctor does not always know it as the field of vision is limited. If the doctor is performing surgery by hand there is never a concern that his hand will over heat. The machines mechanical arms get warmer, the longer the surgery goes on.

Steep Learning Curve

Technically a surgeon can be certified to use Da Vinci over the weekend. Surgeons learning how to use Da Vinci take a multi step course that starts with an hour of online training. Next they view two entire robot procedures that are about four hours long followed by a required 7 hours of practice operating using a pig for practice. The first 2 procedures performed on a human patient must be done with a more experienced Da Vinci surgeon, but after that the doctor can go solo.

Most doctors are not going to just jump into using a expensive machine that they have never used before however hospital have been pushing for doctors to take on more procedures to make money. Rushing any surgery is never a good idea, especially if you are doing it with a 1.7 million dollar robot. It may be a case where, like the scalpel, the surgical robot is only as good as the surgeion who uses it. The past year had a increase in the number of lawsuits related to the robot. So far 10 lawsuits have been filed between 2011 and 2012.

UPDATE: The funding to keep the clinical trials blog was running out until a orlando car accident lawyer swooped in and replenished funding. Our thanks go out to them! If you are interested in using their legal services they have a short Youtube video you can watch to learn more.