The Da Vinci robotic system is considered by many to be one of the most astounding medical advancement of our time. The system allows surgeons to perform laparoscopic surgery using robotic instruments with movements that far surpass what the human hand can do. The robot features a camera, like other laparoscopic surgeries, but it also features a number of tools that are operated several feet from the patient via a console of controls. During the procedure, the surgeon does not touch the patient. Instead, he or she controls the arms of the robot that feature four robotic tools. The Da Vinci system has been used to perform prostate removal, hysterectomies, thyroid cancer removal, gastric bypass, and a variety of other surgical procedures.
Many patients have undergone robotic surgery procedures and have been happy with the results. Some find healing time is less and complications are fewer when using the robot, though this is a debated topic. Others believe robotic surgery methods offer no greater benefit than regular laparoscopic surgery. It is far more expensive and requires a great deal more training of surgeons, but the outcomes are not much different than a patient would experience with other surgical methods. Still others believe the surgery robot is dangerous and creates far too great a risk for patients to make any potential benefit worth it. There are a number of reported instances of injuries that back up the claims of the latter group.
Risks vary from situation to situation and depend on the training of the surgeon, the design and maintenance of the machine, and the particular needs of the patient.
Common complications include:
- Burns to arteries and organs
- Excessive bleeding
- Tears and punctures of organs, blood vessels, and arteries
Specific Cases of Organ Tears, Cuts, and Punctures
One of the worst complications associated with Da Vinci robot surgery is tearing and puncturing of internal organs. Many people attribute this to the fact that surgeons perform surgery while not actually touching a patient’s body. Small tears or punctures that would be noticed when a surgeon is “hands-on” go unnoticed because of this disconnect. Unfortunately, a small, easily repairable tear or puncture can turn into a serious problem if not treated and in severe cases, could be fatal.
There are several instances on record in which tearing and puncturing has occurred. Patients have experienced minor cuts near the surgical sites. Reports of punctured organs, including the uterus, have also occurred. One related event in 2009 in New Hampshire, when a patient undergoing hysterectomy surgery had both ureters cut. The injury went unnoticed during the procedure, but doctors realized there was a problem when she experienced renal failure after surgery. Several follow-up surgeries were needed to repair the damage, but she still experienced long-term damage and required life-long follow-up care.
Another incident took place in 2002 in Tampa, Florida occurred when a patient with kidney cancer experienced cutting of the inferior vena cava and the abdominal aorta. Mid-surgery, surgeons shifted from the Da Vinci system to traditional methods. It was during this time the cuts were noticed, but it was too late to save the patient, who died within 24 hours.
Patients have also received settlements when they sued the manufacturer of the Da Vinci surgery system because of their injuries. One settlement occurred in Alabama and alleged the faulty design of the machine resulted in severed ureters and bladder damage during a hysterectomy procedure. The second case was filed by the family of a deceased man in Chicago. The lawsuit claimed the man died as a result of his 2007 spleen removal surgery, performed by the Da Vinci robot. The man suffered two cuts to his small intestine during the procedure that went undetected and later became infected.
How We Can Help
If you or a loved one has been injured during Da Vinci robotic surgery, you have rights. Contact us for more information about the risks associated with the surgery and to determine if you should take action concerning any injuries experienced as a result of robotic surgery.