Since its introduction to the medical world over 10 years ago, the da Vinci Surgical System has been hailed as a major advancement in patient care. A surgeon makes a small incision and uses the da Vinci camera and four robotic instruments to operate by remote control. Hysterectomies, prostate removal, thyroid cancer removal, and gastric bypass are among the most common procedures performed with the da Vinci System.
Though the system has benefitted many patients by offering less invasive surgical options with quicker recovery periods, a few distinct patterns of complications have also emerged. While no surgery can be made risk-free, we believe that the da Vinci System presents a number of increased risk factors to patients. These risks can be caused by design defects, inadequate surgeon education, manufacturing defects, and other problems that multiply the likelihood of patient complication.
The more prevalent complications include:
- Surgical burns to organs and arteries
- Tears or punctures to blood vessels, organs, and arteries
- Excessive bleeding
- Vaginal cuff dehiscence
Surgical burns to organs and arteries
There have been a number of cases that suggest using the da Vinci System is correlated to surgical burns. In March 2010 a 24-year-old female patient suffered severe burns to the intestines and to an artery during a hysterectomy. Her family’s lawsuit claims that a design defect in the da Vinci robot caused the machine’s electrical current to jump. This resulted in a fatal shock to healthy tissue. Additionally, the lawsuit states that the un-insulated surgical hands of the da Vinci robot contributed to the fatal injuries. The patient died two weeks after surgery.
Tears or punctures to blood vessels, organ and arteries
Because the da Vinci System separates a surgeon’s hands from the patient’s body, there is an increased risk for small tears or punctures to go unnoticed during surgery. There have been a number of fatalities and lifelong injuries due to minor nicks and scratches unknowingly inflicted by the robotic arms.
During a 2002 kidney cancer removal surgery in Tampa, the patient’s inferior vena cava and abdominal aorta were cut by the da Vinci equipment. The mistake was caught 90 minutes after the injury occurred, after the surgeons abandoned the da Vinci System for a traditional approach. The extent of the injuries was not known after the operation and the patient died the next day.