Massachusetts individuals who have had surgery in the past few years may have noticed that their surgery was performed with the assistance of a robotic device. Robotic surgical devices, including the da Vinci Surgical System manufactured by Intuitive Surgical Inc., which has been the target of recent reports of surgical errors, have been in use since the late 1990s, according to sources.

Recent studies have noted that instances of malfunction of robotic instruments may be underreported by hospitals, but many medical professionals insist that the devices are safe and may be more precise than surgery performed by hand. These robots are considered another tool that surgeons use, say experts, much like a scalpel, and doctors go through extensive training on how to properly use a robotic device.

An August 2012 study indicates that, between 2000 and 2012, 71 deaths following robotic surgery and 174 nonfatal injuries were reported across the U.S. In addition, according to the FDA, instances of malfunctioning arms and colliding robotic limbs were reported by eleven surgeons, who had reportedly performed 70-600 surgeries each using the da Vinci device. In December 2013, 1,386 robotic arms on da Vinci devices were recalled by Intuitive Surgical due to possible abnormal friction in the arms of the instrument.

Robotic devices are currently used in many types of surgery, from hysterectomies to cardiac surgery. Medical professionals say that the most common type of robotic surgery is the prostatectomy, the removal of the prostate gland or part of it. Specific types of injuries reported with the use of a robotic device include temporary nerve damage and bowel perforation. Those who have suffered complications due to the error of a surgeon or a piece of medical machinery may wish to turn to a knowledgeable attorney to discuss possible options for litigation.

Source: Sioux City Journal, “Manufacturer, hospitals say robotic surgery is safe in spite of complications“, Dolly A. Butz, January 03, 2014