Providers tout robotic surgery, but fail to mention risks

While robotic surgery is proving increasingly dangerous, providers don't always warn patients of the risks, Bloomberg recently reported

Last year, for instance, Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver said that one if its surgeons, Warren Kortz, M.D., was first in the region to use robotic surgery to remove gallbladders through one incision. The hospital, in an announcement touting the tool, said that it was a "breakthrough in robotic surgery," and that its use was "easier on the patient."

However, Porter Adventist did not reveal the risks involved with the surgery.

According to Bloomberg, an April complaint by the Colorado Medical Board found 10 patients Kortz treated between 2008 and 2011 suffered injuries or complications, five with arteries punctured or torn, objects temporarily left inside two and others with nerve damage. One even died, and another needed cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The board charged Kortz with 14 counts of unprofessional conduct, saying that sometimes, he didn't even advise patients of alternatives to the robotic surgery.

Still, Bloomberg reported, 50 percent of general surgeons who responded to a JPMorgan Chase & Co. survey earlier this month said they planned to add robotic systems within two years in response to general demand.

Complications from robotic surgery are widely underreported, according to a study published in August in the Journal for Healthcare Quality by researchers from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In an announcement from Johns Hopkins Medicine, the researchers pointed out that a "slapdash" system of reporting complications paints an unclear picture of the safety of robotic surgery.

In March, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that robotic surgery for hysterectomies should not be a first or even second choice for women undergoing routine procedures, due, in part, to the learning curve associated with the robotic system. That same month, health officials in Massachusetts sent a letter outlining safety concerns about robotic surgery after two damaging incidents involving robots performing hysterectomies.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently is surveying hospitals on complications, outcomes and dangers with Intuitive's da Vinci robot.

To learn more:
- read the Bloomberg article

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