Da Vinci Robot Surgical Benefits Questioned in Light of Significant Cost, reports Audet & Partners, LLP

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The use of the da Vinci surgical robot has come under scrutiny for the significant up front, maintenance, and other associated costs incurred by hospitals and physician practices for a surgical alternative of negligible benefit over many traditional surgeries.

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William M. Audet, J.D., L.L.M.

Patients need to clearly understand all the potential downsides of da Vinci surgery, including both increased cost, and the risk of surgical burns and internal organ damage.

The da Vinci surgical robot and its components have been the subject of much criticism in recent months due to myriad problems that doctors and patients have encountered in hospitals and surgery centers across the nation. There are some advantages to using the surgical robot, not the least of which is the minimal invasiveness allowed by its use. This, in turn, allows for surgeries with shorter hospital stays, less blood loss and faster, less painful recoveries.* However, despite the robot’s benefits, new research is questioning the effectiveness and cost of using the da Vinci robotic system.*

Each da Vinci surgical robot costs a hospital or surgery center approximately $1.5 million for the system itself and another $125,000 each year for maintenance.* Additionally, the single-use instruments required for the surgeries can run as high as $2,000 per surgery.** This is quite profitable for Intuitive Surgical, the manufacturer of the robot, who earned $2.2 billion in revenue last year.*

One study, in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), found that while hysterectomies using the robot produced somewhat fewer hospital stays, compared to minimally invasive surgeries not using the robot, there was little difference with regard to the amount of blood loss or occurrence of intraoperative complications.* Importantly, however, robotic procedures cost approximately $2,189 more per procedure.*

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued a statement on the matter, calling robotically-assisted surgery “the most expensive approach” to performing hysterectomies, yet one “without any demonstrable benefit.”* The statement concluded by saying, “Aggressive direct-to-consumer marketing of the latest medical technologies may mislead the public into believing that they are the best choice. Our patients deserve and need factual information about all of their treatment options, including costs, so that they can make truly informed health care decisions.”**

Attorney William Audet, whose firm, Audet & Partners, LLP represents several individual plaintiffs alleged to have suffered serious personal injuries associated with da Vinci procedures, points out another fundamental difference between da Vinci and more traditional surgical procedures: "Besides the increased cost, the da Vinci robot, as recently acknowledged by its manufacturer, poses the dangerous risk of internal burns as electricity escapes surgical instruments during surgery***. The risk of damage to internal organs caused by internal burns is simply non-existent in more traditional surgery not involving electrically charged surgical instruments. Patients need to clearly understand all the potential downsides of da Vinci surgery, including both increased cost, and the risk of surgical burns and internal organ damage."

Despite arguments on both sides, it cannot be denied that Intuitive Surgical is currently the subject of at least 26 pending lawsuits involving its policies or products and is also the subject of a recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigation into the adverse events associated with the robot’s use.*

If you or someone you know has suffered an injury that may be related to the da Vinci surgical robot, please contact Audet & Partners, LLP by calling us toll free at 800.965.1461, or visit our website at http://www.davinci-surgical-robot-lawsuit.com

** Statement on Robotic Surgery by ACOG President James T. Breeden, MD, ACOG (Mar. 14, 2013), http://www.acog.org/About_ACOG/News_Room/News_Releases/2013/Statement_on_Robotic_Surgery

*** CNBC. http://www.cnbc.com/id/100726886 (May, 10, 2013)

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William Audet, J.D., L.L.M.
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