Stillwater News Press

May 3, 2013

Stillwater hospital official says surgical robot is safe option

By Russell Hixson
Stillwater NewsPress

STILLWATER, Okla. — Stillwater Medical Center officials have confidence its da Vinci surgical robot is perfectly safe for patients.

According to hospital officials, it has performed 40 surgeries without any incidents since it was purchased for $2.32 million in November.

The robotic system allows surgeons to perform complex procedures through tiny incisions with a high degree of precision, dexterity and control.

Nationally, the robots have come under fire after burns, organ perforations, lacerations, blood vessel tears and deaths prompted dozens of lawsuits and hundreds of complaints with the Food and Drug Administration.

According to FDA records, adverse incident reports involving the da Vinci surgical system are increasing with 211 in 2011 and 282 in 2012. Last year, the FDA began to survey surgeons about their experiences with robotic surgery.

New York City law firm Bernstein Liebhard is representing multiple victims who claim the surgical system or improperly trained doctors are to blame for their injuries. Intuitive Surgical, the robot’s manufacturer, has been named in 26 lawsuits.

The hospital’s Vice President of Patient Care Liz Michael said the hospital is aware of concerns regarding the surgical system.

“We would never use a technology that we didn’t think was safe,” she said.

 The system is inspected every 30 days by the manufacturer and is constantly receiving software updates. Michael said four doctors at the hospital have undergone the proper training to use the system and are only performing gall bladder removals and hysterectomies, though it is capable of doing others.

“We want to make sure we master each surgery before we start doing something else,” she said.