New Concerns On Robotic Surgeries

Tue, 09/10/2013 - 9:16am
Roni Caryn Rabin

In early March 2009, Erin Izumi, a woman in her 30s from Tacoma, Wash., underwent robotically assisted surgery to treat endometriosis. The operation at St. Joseph Medical Center dragged on for nearly 11 hours.

Ten days later, Ms. Izumi was rushed to an emergency room, where doctors discovered that her colon and rectum had been torn during the operation. She was hospitalized for five weeks, undergoing a series of procedures to repair the damage, including a temporary colostomy, according to her attorney Chris Otorowski.

But even though medical device manufacturers and hospitals are required to report every device-related death and serious injury to a database maintained by the Food and Drug Administration within 30 days of learning about an incident, no report about the case was made in 2009. Hospital officials declined to comment, and a spokeswoman for the manufacturer said it became aware of the incident only when Ms. Izumi filed a lawsuit. It disputed the claim and settled the case in May 2012.

That was not the only lapse in reporting problems with robotic surgical equipment, a new study has found.

The equipment, called the da Vinci system, is made by Intuitive Surgical Inc. of Sunnyvale, Calif. It has been on the market for more than a decade; more than a million procedures have been performed with it. Between January 2000 and August 2012, thousands of mishaps were reported to the FDA. In the vast majority of cases, the patient was not harmed, but among the reports were 174 injuries and 71 deaths related to da Vinci surgery, according to a study published last week in The Journal for Healthcare Quality.

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