Da Vinci Dilemma

The name “da Vinci” likely brings to mind the “Mona Lisa” or “The Last Supper.” Maybe the “Vitruvian Man” or sketches of flying machines. Perhaps you think of Dan Brown’s book “The da Vinci Code” or a certain teenage mutant ninja turtle with the forename “Leonardo.” What you may not have heard of is the da Vinci Robot.
Controlled by a surgeon from a console, this robot was designed to make complex surgery easier using a minimally invasive approach. Commonly used since the year 2000 for hysterectomies and prostatectomies, this surgical system is now being used increasingly for cardiac valve repair. However, its $2 million cost places it beyond the reach of many institutions. Benefits to robotic surgery compared with traditional surgery include smaller incisions, shorter hospital stays and less pain after the operation. Yet, a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association compared robotically assisted hysterectomies with traditional laparoscopic surgeries over a three-year period and found the former added an average of $2,000 in costs per procedure, with no significant clinical advantages. While the use of robotic surgical systems is expanding, there have been some concerns that problems with the systems have been underreported to the FDA.
For example, researchers examining a 12-year period found 245 incidents reported to the FDA, including 71 deaths and 174 nonfatal injuries.
But they also found eight cases in which reporting fell short, including five cases in which no FDA report was filed at all. Many patients have also complained that they were only given promotional information touting the benefits of the system and did not hear about potential complications resulting from defects. There have also been a growing number of complaints that robotics surgery left patients with burns and other heat-related damage to intestines, ureter, bowels and other organs. While both modern and conventional methods use monopolar energy that can create excessive heat, failure in insulation can cause the current to arc and send sparks leaping somewhere other than where the current is directed. A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that robotic instruments have a significantly higher incidence and prevalence of insulation failure compared with more traditional instruments. Furthermore, it seems that many doctors are not provided with training adequate to operate such a complicated machine. Several Kentucky hospitals have da Vinci systems, including Norton Suburban Hospital in Louisville, Saint Joseph Hospital in Lexington, the Medical Center in Bowling Green and Methodist Hospital in Henderson. A lawsuit was filed in March against Baptist Health Lexington alleging that the da Vinci system’s technical malfunctions, including the tendency to cause burns, resulted in the perforation of the plaintiff’s rectum and caused him to suffer from physical and emotional injuries, including rectal injury, fistulas, infections and blood clots. The plaintiff claims that he was injured as a direct result of the use of the robotic arm, and that he is now required to wear an external pouch known as an ileostomy to collect waste directly from the intestine. If you or someone you know has been injured during a surgery where the da Vinci surgical robot was used, the Kentucky personal injury attorneys of the Johnson Law Firm can review your case and advise you whether you have grounds to seek financial compensation. Call us today at 606-437-4488 or fill out this contact form.

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