A generation or so ago, it seems robots were generally a subject for science fiction writers. However, historians say that Leonardo da Vinci envisioned a robotic device around the year 1495. Today, robotic devices are used in various industries, and the medical profession is no exception. In fact, a robotic surgical device named "da Vinci" was used in nearly 400,000 surgeries last year--a stark increase from earlier years nearly tripling the number of times the multi-armed robotic surgeon was used just four years ago.
New concerns over the robotic surgeon are emerging as the device is logging more hours in operating rooms nationwide. Surgical accidents involving the high-tech surgical machine have raised some eyebrows of medical professionals--even as many hospitals across the nation are promoting the use of the mechanical devices to reduce potential surgical errors and complications that can follow surgery.
Proponents of the da Vinci surgical robots say that because the robotic arms act with precision, many complications of surgery can be reduced. The advocates say that the robotic arms do not shake like a human hand, leading to more precision in the surgical procedure. Incisions can be more precise, reducing potential bleeding and leading to less recovery time. Additionally, the device is controlled by a surgeon who can sit at the controls, reducing fatigue for the human doctor during the procedure.
However, readers in Rhode Island may be interested to know that a number of incidents have occurred that have given some doctors pause in the use of the mechanical device. Last year, the device nicked a blood-vessel during a hysterectomy-which arguably is not consistent with the ideas of precision and reduced bleeding.
Sources say that roughly 500 incidents have been recorded related to incidents with the robot since January 1, 2012, including five deaths. Incidents have included one of the robots striking a patient in the face during surgery; another reported incident included a robot that refused to let go of tissue during a colorectal procedure.
Some doctors have raised their concerns that the devices have not been subjected to sufficient testing to ensure that the robots are even as good as convention surgical procedures. The Food and Drug Administration is interested in the issue.
The FDA is conducting surveys to determine whether the agency should be taking a harder look at the robots. While the agency may generally conduct surveys in many areas to protect consumers, an agency spokeswoman say the current inquiry is related to "the increase in number of reports received" concerning the robots, according to the Associated Press.
Source: Houston Chronicle, "Robot hot among surgeons but FDA taking fresh look," Lindsey Tanner--Associated Press, updated April 10, 2013