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Surgical errors not avoided by use of robot assistants

In U.S. hospitals, including facilities in Chicago, robot-assisted surgery is often advertised as safer and less trouble for patients than normal minimally invasive surgery. However, reports showed that the use of robots in operating rooms could lead to surgical error and cost thousands of dollars more per operation. Despite the claims of the company that manufactured the devices and hospitals and doctors who made more money from their use, in randomized trials robot operations had not been proven to offer significantly improved health benefits compared to traditional surgery.

In the U.S., more than 350,000 operations used robot-assisted surgery in 2012, a 60 percent increase over 2010. As opposed to a surgeon standing over a patient while operating on them, robotic operations involve the doctor sitting at what looks like a video-game console and guiding a $1.5 million mechanical assistant. Gall bladder removals, hysterectomies, heart valve operations, prostate cancer treatment and many other kinds of soft-tissue procedures have been performed with the new technology. Furthermore, half of general surgeons said that they planned to add a robotic system to their practice by the end of 2015.

Some said that the machines' manufacturer, Intuitive Surgical Inc., benefited from flaws in the government's regulation practices on the marketing of medical devices. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration employed just two full-time workers to evaluate the advertisements of medical devices including robots for surgery. In contrast, the FDA had more than 60 employees dedicated to watching over the promotion of prescription drugs.

A negligent surgeon can ruin or even end a patient's life. The advice and counsel of a Chicago lawyer may be helpful to individuals who have been the victims of surgical errors, negligent operating room staff or other mistakes.

Source: University of Illinois at Chicago School of Medicine, "Robotic-Assisted Surgery," Oct. 16, 2013

Source: Bloomberg, "Robot Surgery Damaging Patients Rises With Marketing", Robert Langreth, October 07, 2013

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