When you hear the phrase ‘robotic-assisted surgery,’ you are probably not the only person wondering if an actual robot will be performing your surgery. With the advancements of medicine and overall technology, we should not be surprised that robots are beginning to have a presence in everyday life — and the daily endeavors of medicine is not an exception.
As advanced as robotic-assisted surgery, there are still many questions the general public has regarding what it is and how it works. In addition to answering these questions, Raynes | Erickson will also discuss the benefits of robotic surgery in addition to potential medical malpractice claims associated with the method.
Robotic-Assisted Surgery: What It Is & How It Works
Robotic surgery is a method to perform surgery using very small tools attached to a robotic arm. The surgeon controls the robotic arm with a computer. You will be given general anesthesia so that you are asleep and do not feel any discomfort. The surgeon sits at a computer station and directs the movements of the small surgical tools that are attached to the robot’s arms. And that is how the cookie crumbles…at least that’s the general rundown of how robotic-assisted surgery works according to MedlinePlus. But let us consider a more detailed description of robotic-assisted surgery from the professional perspective of UCLA Health, leaders in this advanced field of medicine.
To start things off, UCLA Health ensures that with robotic-assisted surgery, is not solely a robot that is performing the surgery. Undergoing robotic-assisted surgery simply means that your surgeon is in the operating room, directing the procedure the entire time by means of controlling the motions of the machine.
Think of the relationship between your surgeon and the Robotic system like a video game. When you play a video game, you move a control button, and the machine translates your movements into real-time, mimicking your moves precisely on the screen. During a Robotic-assisted procedure, your surgeon uses master controls to manipulate the instruments, and the instruments translate your surgeon’s movements into precise movements inside your body. Your surgeon is in control the whole time; the surgical system responds to the direction provided by your surgeon.
There is a camera inside your body that sends real-time images to your surgeon who is seated at the console. In fact, the images your surgeon sees using the Robotic System are more highly magnified, with a sharper resolution, compared to what he or she would see standing over you. So, the Robotic system cannot “think” on its own neither can it make decisions or perform incisions on its own; it only responds to your surgeon’s precise hand and finger movements.
Benefits of Robotic-Assisted Surgery
There are many benefits to having Robotic-assisted surgery. For example, compared to traditional open surgery, robotic surgery results in smaller incisions, which reduce pain and scarring, leading to less time spent in the hospital and quicker recovery times. More benefits of robotic-assisted surgery for both surgeon and patient include:
- Your surgeon has a greater range of motion and dexterity
- Your surgeon sees a highly-magnified, high-resolution image of the operating field
- Your surgeon has better access to the area being operated on
- More precise surgery. Often, your surgeon needs to operate near healthy, sensitive organs, tissues, and nerves. The goal of surgery is to remove the abnormality without affecting surrounding healthy structures. The small size and flexibility of the robotic instruments make this easier to accomplish.
- Significantly less pain.
- Less risk of infection and blood loss. Your surgeon makes tiny incisions rather than large ones, lowering the risk of infection or blood loss.
- Earlier discharge from the hospital. Generally, patients can go home earlier following a robotic surgery, sometimes even the next day.
- Less scarring and shorter recovery. The smaller incisions also mean that your recovery period is shorter. Sometimes, recovery may last just a few days.
Medical Malpractice Claims & Robotic-Assisted Surgery
Of course, everything has its precautions. AUI reminds us that with robot-assisted surgery, there is not only the risk of human error when operating the robotic system, but also the potential for mechanical failure. For instance, system components such as robotic arms, camera, robotic tower, binocular lenses, and instruments can fail.
In other cases, the electrical current in the robotic instrument can leave the robotic arm and be misapplied to surrounding tissues, resulting in accidental burn injuries. Likewise, robot-assisted surgery can cause nerve palsies due to extreme body positioning or direct nerve compression that may occur when using robots. It also takes longer to perform robotic surgery than traditional surgery in surgical centers with lower robotic volume or by less experienced surgeons.
A medical malpractice lawsuit states that the patient in question has suffered from the negligence of the surgeon who provided them with medical care. Some of the robotic surgical errors that have been documented include:
- Broken or burnt pieces of tools falling into the patient
- Electrical sparks from robotic equipment
- Unintended movements
If something does go wrong with the patient while in robotic surgery, it can be unclear if the mistake was a result of human error, robotic problems, or general risks related to the surgical procedure. In many cases, the liability falls on the manufacturer of the robotic equipment. Operating room staff and surgeons in charge of the surgery have also been sued as a result of improper training of equipment and failure to warn users of the risks involved.
To receive the greatest possible outcome in a medical malpractice lawsuit, it is best to hire a medical malpractice lawyer to handle your case. Be sure to contact Raynes | Erickson. We represent clients throughout Southern California who have suffered an injury as a result of robotic-assisted surgery.