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National MD group: Robotic surgery not as good as advertised

On Behalf of | Mar 26, 2013 | Surgical Errors

“Cherry picked and very misleading information.”

That is how an executive with a well-known doctors organization terms the marketing tactics promoting robotic surgical systems over traditional surgeries in hysterectomy operations and other procedures involving soft tissue.

According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a leading industry group of medical professionals, robotic surgery both oversells and underperforms. Fundamentally, and despite its self-avowed merits, ACOG notes that robotic surgery might actually be related to an uptick in surgical errors in procedures such as uterus removal and prostate operations.

Federally compiled data on medical harm and adverse patient outcomes readily seems to support ACOG’s assessment. Bloomberg News has reviewed adverse incident reports sent to the FDA over a several-year period, and they reveal that personal injury reports noted in surgeries involving robots have increased nearly 500 percent since 2009. More than 70 patient deaths have also been linked to robot-assisted surgery over that same period.

Denigration of robotic surgery performance flatly equates to criticism of the California company Intuitive Surgical Inc., which is the only company in the United States to have received regulatory approval to market and sell robot systems for soft-tissue surgeries. ACOG officials say that comparatively higher rates of complication can occur in such surgeries as compared with traditional operations, because many doctors are simply not adequately trained on how to use the robots.

Moreover, surgeons surveyed by the FDA relate that surgery costs are higher when robots are used.

Intuitive staunchly defends its robotic systems, which were used in nearly 370,000 surgeries in the United States last year.

Source: Bloomberg, “Robot surgery isn’t first choice for uterus removals,” Robert Langreth, March 15, 2013

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