Errors in Robotic Surgeries May be More Than We’re Told

Robotic devices are increasingly being used in surgical procedures. A new survey by John Hopkins University School of Medicine – one of the nation’s preeminent medical centers – raises questions as to how safe this practice is.

The research team looked at reports of surgical errors while using robotic devices from January 1, 2000 to August 1, 2012. Problems during robotic device surgeries are supposed to be reported by healthcare providers to the manufacturers of the devices. These manufacturers are, in turn, required to report the incidents to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The survey, recently published on the website of the Journal for Healthcare Quality, found that 1 million robotic surgeries were performed since 2000 and 245 errors were reported to the FDA in that timeframe. These complications included the deaths of 71 patients.

But the authors of the study expressed doubt that this captures the true number of surgical mishaps that occurred while using robotic devices. For example, the researchers claim to have discovered numerous accounts of robotic surgery problems relayed by the national media that were not included the FDA reports until after the media coverage appeared.

Most Common Fatal Robotic Surgeries

Of the reports they reviewed, the researchers uncovered the top surgeries during which the patients died:

· Gynecologic surgeries – 31 percent of patient deaths

· Urologic surgeries – 21 percent of patient deaths

· Cardiothoracic surgeries – 17 percent of patient deaths

Robotic devices today are commonly used in a wide variety of surgeries, from minor procedures to the more intricate. Between 2007 and 2011 alone, their use in the nation’s operating rooms increased by 400 percent.

Undoubtedly, robotic-assisted surgeries will continue to grow. If healthcare providers or the manufacturers of the devices do not correctly report the dangers of robotic surgeries, it’s not fair to patients, who deserve to be fully informed of all potential risks involved, as well as having an accurate assessment of who is responsible if a tragedy does occur.