Risks Associated with da Vinci Surgical Systems: What Patients and Their Families Need to Know April 27, 2016.

As medical technology advances, more and more hospitals, physicians and surgeons are hopeful that robotic equipment and assisted procedures will reduce errors, relieve exhausted physicians and ensure better outcomes for people who need safe care.

Over the past decade, robot-assisted surgery has exploded in popularity in American hospitals and other care-giving institutions. From 2007 to 2011, this type of surgery increased by 400% in the U.S., for instance. Intuitive Surgical Inc.’s da Vinci Surgical system has been one the most popular… and controversial robot systems.

Intuitive released this system to market in 2000, and recent surveys suggest that approximately 25% of all U.S. hospitals (1 out of 4) now use these machines. They are not cheap; these machines cost between $1.5 million and $2.5 million, and maintenance fees can exceed $100,000 a year. The Sunnyvale, California company markets da Vinci as a tool that’s "less invasive, more precise, and [leads to] faster recovery" and encourages surgeons to use them to assist with procedures like prostate surgeries and hysterectomies. The FDA has given the green light to allow providers to use da Vinci systems to assist with more diverse surgeries, such as "laparoscopic surgical procedures and general surgery cardiac, colorectal, gynecologic, head and neck, thoracic and urologic surgical procedures."

Hospitals and surgeons are understandably excited to use systems like da Vinci for a number of reasons:

  • They can reduce the amount of time, energy and attention that surgeons need to invest to complete repetitive tasks;
  • Robots can be trained, at least in theory, to perform highly delicate, methodical and dexterous work better than any human surgeon;
  • Unlike human surgeons, who can get tired, become overwhelmed by emotions, or forget certain processes, robot surgeons should (at least in theory) be able to replicate processes every time;
  • Robots can be optimized over time, leading to reduced scarring, shorter hospital stays, and less pain for patients;
  • The deployment of surgical robots can help hospitals cope with fewer surgeons, thus reducing health care budgets and reducing the amount of resources consumed.

The promises associated with machines like da Vinci are obviously exciting, and future incarnations of this type of technology will likely get better and better. However, the rollout of the da Vinci system has been anything but smooth. In other pages, we will explore the dark side of this technology. For now, if you need assistance with a medical injury case, our da Vinci Surgical System attorneys will be happy to provide a confidential, thorough case consultation. Contact us to schedule a time to talk.