study makes alarming findings concerning robotic surgery ii

Last time, we started delving into a fascinating — yet highly alarming — study undertaken by a group of researchers from the University of Illinois, Rush University Medical Center and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, which uncovered an alarming number of complications and technical difficulties associated with robotic surgery.

In today’s post, we’ll continue our examination of this study, entitled Adverse Events in Robotic Surgery.

Did the researchers break down their findings concerning device malfunctions and adverse events for patients any further?

After discovering the 8,061 reports involving device malfunctions and the 1,535 reports involving adverse events for patients, the researchers broke down these numbers further and discovered the following:

  • Burned or broken machine parts falling into patients contributed to 119 patient injuries and one patient fatality.
  • Accidental charring, damaged accessory covers and electrical sparks contributed to 193 patient injuries.
  • Unprompted powering on and off, and so-called uncontrolled movements contributed to 52 patient injuries and two patient fatalities.
  • System-error code reports and interrupted video feeds contributed to 41 patient injuries and one patient fatality.

The researchers also discovered the highest rates of patient injuries and fatalities occurred when robotic surgery was used in either head and neck procedures, or cardiothoracic procedures.

Did the study authors make any recommendations?

Yes, the researchers concluded there are steps that could be taken by manufacturers of the robotic surgery equipment, hospitals and, of course, individual providers to make robotic surgery safer.

For example, they recommended the development of improved system interfaces, the creation of enhanced training simulators, and the provision of both real-time feedback for practicing surgeons and troubleshooting training.

Why would anyone ever want to undergo robotic surgery?

It’s important to note while these findings are indeed alarming and indicative of the need for real change, robotic surgery has been performed safely here in the U.S. millions of times. Indeed, it has been linked to a smaller infection risk, faster recovery times and lower rates of permanent scarring thanks to smaller incisions.

What are your thoughts on this study? Does the risk of medical mistakes change your mind about undergoing robotic surgery?  

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