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Injury and Death Related to Robotic Surgery -- Medical Malpractice

Robotic surgeries are coming under FDA scrutiny because of a 34% increase in incidents — some fatal — associated with the equipment used (the da Vinci system) that were reported to the agency from 2011 to 2012. Reports filed since early last year include at least five deaths.

During that same period, the volume of da Vinci procedures in the United States increased 26%, according to the manufacturer, Intuitive Surgical.  The robotic surgery equipment is used at at least 2000 US hospitals, the computerized system lets surgeons manipulate instruments attached to robotic arms while viewing the procedure in 3D. 

Food and Drug Administration is looking into a spike in reported problems during robotic surgeries. Earlier this year, the FDA began a survey of surgeons using the robotic system.  DaVinci is the only robotic surgery equipment approved by the FDA for soft tissue operations.  There are other robotic devices approved for neurosurgery and orthopedics, among other things.

Injuries from undergoing robotic surgery can be catastrophic for the patient.  FDA Reports filed this year include:

-- A woman who died during a 2012 hysterectomy when the surgeon-controlled robot accidentally nicked a blood vessel.
-- A Chicago man who died in 2007 after spleen surgery.
-- A New York man whose colon was allegedly perforated during prostate surgery. Da Vinci's maker filed that report after seeing a newspaper article about it and said the doctor's office declined to provide additional information.

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