In March 2009 a woman in her 30s underwent robotically assisted surgery to treat endometriosis. Ten days later she was rushed to the emergency room where doctors found that her colon and rectum had been torn during the operation.
Medical device manufacturers and hospitals are required to report every device related death and serious injury to a database maintained by the Food and Drug Administration within 30 days of learning an incident. This incident was not reported in 2009. A study found that mishaps have been under reported.
The equipment involved, known as the da Vinci system has been implicated in 174 injuries and 71 deaths according to a study published in the Journal for Healthcare Quality.
Robotic surgery has grown dramatically, increasing more than 400 percent in the United States between 2007 and 2011. About 1400 da Vinci systems, costing between $1.5 million to $2.5 million, have been purchased by hospitals. This equipment is being aggressively marketed and promoted to patients. It is uncertain that the use of this equipment provides real benefit and there is a significant risk of harm when used by doctors who are inexperienced.
A 2010 study found that 56.8 percent of surgeons surveyed anonymously said they had experienced irrecoverable operative malfunctions while using the da Vinci system.
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