The Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System is marketed as superior to traditional surgery because it provides better outcome, less pain, and faster recovery. In reality, thousands of people have been severely injured by burns, electrocutions, lacerations, and complications caused by mechanical malfunction, poorly-trained surgeons, and other factors.

What is the Da Vinci Robotic Surgical System?

The Da Vinci Robotic Surgery System, developed by Intuitive Surgical Inc., was approved in 2000 for general laparoscopic surgery. The system consists of four robotic arms that are controlled by a surgeon operating a joystick and foot pedals at a console. The surgeon looks through a view-finder at a 3D image of the surgical area, and performs “minimally-invasive” surgery through 1-2 cm incisions.

Da Vinci Robot Surgery Burns & Electrocutions

In May 2013, Intuitive warned that the EndoWrist Monopolar Curved Scissors (or “Hot Shears”) — an instrument used to cut, cauterize, and burn tissue during surgery — can potentially develop “micro-cracks” in the insulation, which may allow electricity to arc and burn patients outside the surgical area. These warnings only came after several years of FDA adverse events:

  • Report (2010) describes a routine hysterectomy that ended in death due to a burn to an artery that caused severe bleeding.
  • Report (2008) describes an event in which the monopolar scissors “flamed, sparked, and smoked at the joint” when activated by a surgeon.
  • And more

Da Vinci Surgical Robot and Prostatectomy (Prostate Surgery)

In 2009, 86% of the 85,000 men who had prostate cancer surgery had robot-assisted operations. This is concerning considering that the risks and benefits of using the Da Vinci Surgical Robot are unknown. According to a study published in January 2012 in the American Society of Clinical Oncology:

“Risks of problems with continence and sexual function are high … men should not expect fewer adverse effects following robotic prostatectomy.”

Da Vinci Surgical Robot Hysterectomy Problems

Thanks to widespread marketing and advertising, many people are choosing robotic hysterectomies (uterus removal surgery) over traditional minimally-invasive techniques. According to Dr. James T. Breeden, president of the largest association of gynecologists and obstetricians in the United States, most hysterectomies should not be performed with the Da Vinci Surgical Robot. He is concerned that “aggressive direct-to-consumer marketing of the latest medical technologies may mislead the public into believing that they are the best choice.”

Studies of robotic hysterectomies:

  • In 2011, a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that non-robotic hysterectomies could be performed faster and as safely as robotic surgery by trained surgeons.
  • In February 2013, a study published in Journal of the American Medical Association found that the percentage of robot-assisted hysterectomies grew from 0.5% in 2007 to 9.5% in 2010. They found that robotic hysterectomies were an average of $2,189 more expensive, but had similar rates of transfusions and complications as non-robotic hysterectomies.

Da Vinci Robot Surgery Risks & Complications

  • Burns
  • Electrocution
  • Mechanical malfunction
  • Surgical mistake
  • Blood vessel perforation or laceration
  • Organ damage
  • Infection
  • Sepsis
  • Internal bleeding
  • Hematomas and seromas
  • Need for additional surgical procedures
  • Death

Surgical Robots Linked to 144 Deaths: Study

Since 2000, at least 144 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries have been linked to robotic surgeries, according to a new study titled Adverse Events in Robotic Surgery: A Retrospective Study of 14 Years of FDA Data. Among the study’s findings were:

  • 1,166 cases of broken / burned components falling into patients’ bodies, which contributed to at least 119 injuries and 1 death;
  • 52 injuries and 2 deaths caused by uncontrolled movements and spontaneous powering on and off of the devices;
  • 193 injuries linked to electrical sparks, unintended charring and damages accessory covers, and
  • 41 injuries and 1 death attributed to loss of quality video feeds and/or reports system error codes.

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