Developed and marketed by Intuitive Surgical, the da Vinci Surgical System gained approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2000. California-based manufacturer Intuitive created the multi-armed robot to assist surgeons with more precise, minimally invasive surgery through small incisions that don’t require doctors to open the abdomen.
The da Vinci system’s primary components are a console, a patient side cart with operating tools and a 3D HD monitor. Like any other major surgeries, patients are under anesthesia during the procedure. Because the robot takes longer to set up compared to the ramp-up time for a traditional surgery, the overall operating time is typically longer.
The technology is also expensive. The price of each robot can range from $1 million to $2.25 million depending on the model and replacements parts cost about $1,500. In addition, the hospital pays about $140,000 for the maintenance of each machine. Because of this cost, not all doctors or hospitals are onboard with switching to robotic surgery.
The extra cost of equipment and surgeon training gets passed on to the patient. For example, researchers from Columbia University found that robotic surgery for removing ovarian cysts cost about $3,300 more than traditional laparoscopic surgery.
Problems with Da Vinci
Despite an advance in technology, doctors disagree about robotic surgery’s benefits to patients. Both patients and doctors reported serious surgery-related injuries that stemmed from robot malfunctions, and some of these injuries were fatal. As a result, Intuitive Surgical faces lawsuits from many patients. For example, some people who entered into litigation because of the da Vinci Surgical System accused the company of marketing their product too aggressively and of urging doctors to perform the surgery even if surgeons were not trained properly.
Dangerous complications from using Da Vinci include:
• Injury to organs
• Internal scarring
• Equipment failure
Available facts about da Vinci injuries include:
• 56.8 percent of surgeons said they experienced malfunctions with the da Vinci
• Women are more likely to be injured
• One third of the deaths reported to the FDA occurred during gynecologic procedures
• 43 percent of the deaths occurred during hysterectomies
In addition, researchers at Johns Hopkins published a study in 2013 showing that doctors and hospitals “vastly underreported” botched operations and complications with the da Vinci robot.
Some patients experienced post-operative complications: painful abscesses, perforated intestines, prostate and vaginal injuries and infections. Complications from multiple hysterectomies performed by the da Vinci robot left some women with permanent injuries and disabilities. Because of how these injuries occur, it may take days for the problems to surface.