Surgical patients in Massachusetts may want to know that Intuitive Surgical Inc., a manufacturer of robotic surgical devices distributed worldwide, has announced that their units may stall and lead to surgical errors. Friction might build up in some of the robotic arms, interfering with smooth motion during surgery. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the friction can be felt by the surgeon as resistance in the robotic arm. If the surgeon pushes the robotic arm through the resistance, it might briefly stall then suddenly “catch up” to the surgeon’s position. This type of jerky motion during surgery could lead to a worsened condition, serious injury or even a fatal surgical error resulting in death.

Intuitive issued a notice about the possibility of stalling in robotic equipment, a surgical equipment malfunction affecting nearly 1,400 robotic surgical systems worldwide. According to a spokesperson for the manufacturer, there has been three reported instances of an equipment defect out of the more than 55,000 surgeries completed by the affected instruments: one that resulted in an imprecise cut, and two others that surgeons perceived resistance for. No complications were listed for the patients involved in these surgeries.

The FDA noted that system malfunctions in surgical robots, along with injuries and deaths during robotic surgery, more than doubled in 2013 over the previous year. Patients undergoing surgery to try to improve their health may face a worsened condition or a serious injury due to faulty robotic surgical equipment.

Patients who are victims of surgical errors, such as ones that may occur in robotic surgery if the equipment malfunctions, may choose to hold the surgeon and other medical personnel liable by seeking financial compensation for damages. A knowledgeable medical malpractice attorney may be a valuable guide for patients seeking compensation. An attorney could steer them through the legal complexities of medical malpractice cases.

Source: Bloomberg , “Intuitive Robots May Stall in Surgery, Company Warns“, Shannon Pettypiece, Robert Langret, December 04, 2013