Robo-surgery mistakes land physician in hot water

A surgeon at Porter Adventist Hospital in Denver faces 14 counts of unprofessional conduct associated with use of the hospital's robotic surgery arm, according to the Denver Post.

The Colorado medical board alleges that Warren Kortz, in procedures performed from 2008 to 2010, made errors including injuring patients through improper padding and positioning; subjecting some patients to overly long surgeries; and leaving sponges and instruments inside patients. The board claims Kortz had to abort kidney donations because of mistakes.

State investigators are asking an administrative judge to "discipline" Kortz's license to practice medicine, though it's not clear what that would involve.

The hospital suspended Kortz's privileges to use the da Vinci robotic system in 2010 and reported that 11 patients experienced complications after undergoing procedures using the robot. The organization declined to say whether it required Kortz to undergo additional training before it ultimately restored his privileges. Kortz remains prominent in the hospital's marketing of its robotic surgery and transplant departments, according to the newspaper.

Last month, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said that robotic surgery for hysterectomies shouldn't be the first--or even second--choice for women undergoing routine procedures. It pointed out that there's a learning curve involved in using the machines and more complications can occur with doctors still learning to use them. While the robotic systems offer advantages in some complex cases, more traditional methods are less costly and can produce better results in routine procedures, ACOG said.

Also last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration started interviewing surgeons about issues with the da Vinci-brand surgery units, FierceMedicalDevices reported. The FDA says it's conducting the investigation in response to an uptick in adverse event reports, including organ damage and device failure. The agency wants to figure out if they result from user error or design problems.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Quality and Patient Safety Division, part of the state agency that licenses doctors, recently issued an "advisory" letter outlining safety concerns regarding robotic surgery, including that some procedures might be too complex for the technology.

To learn more:
- here's the Post article