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Medical errors during robotic surgery

New Jersey residents may be aware that robotic surgery is becoming more popular, and robots are now sometimes used in even complex chest, neck and head procedures. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of Illinois decided to look into the safety record of surgical procedures performed by robots, and they discovered that 1,391 patients were injured and 114 lost their lives while being operated on in such procedures between 2000 and 2013.

The researchers looked at 10,000 reports of surgical incidents compiled by the FDA. While the agency's data revealed how many patients had been killed, little information was provided about what caused the deaths. Possible factors cited by the researchers include mechanical problems with the robot, human error or the inherent risks associated with undergoing a major surgical procedure. However, the research team found the data compelling enough to issue a warning about the technical challenges of robotic surgery.

The study reveals that 550 errors were reported per 100,000 robotic surgeries. However, most of these errors did not lead to the patient being injured or killed. Errors included sparking, the robot making unintended movements and pieces of broken or burnt surgical tools being dropped into the patient.

Some injuries suffered during robotic surgery are caused by malfunctions or design defects, but others occur when the health care practitioners who operate the machines make mistakes or are not properly trained. The victims of medical errors often suffer catastrophic and sometimes life-changing injuries, but pursuing civil remedies involves facing defendants with deep pockets who are rarely eager to admit to their mistakes. An experienced hospital negligence attorney could explain to the victims of these types of errors how expert medical witnesses can be called upon to establish a failure to provide the requisite standard of care.

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