BBC
Chicago
A study into the safety of surgical robots has linked the machines’ use to at least 144 deaths and more than 1,000 injuries over a 14-year period in the US.
The events included broken instruments falling into patients’ bodies, electrical sparks causing tissue burns and system errors making surgery take longer than planned. The report notes that the figures represent a small proportion of the total number of robotic procedures.
But it calls for fresh safety measures. ‘Despite widespread adoption of robotic systems for minimally invasive surgery, a non-negligible number of technical difficulties and complications are still being experienced during procedures,’ the study states.
‘Adoption of advanced techniques in design and operation of robotic surgical systems may reduce these preventable incidents in the future.’ Robotic surgery can reduce the risk of infections and help patients heal more quickly. The work was carried out by researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.
Their paper says 144 deaths, 1,391 injuries and 8,061 device malfunctions were recorded out of a total of more than 1.7 million robotic procedures carried out between January 2000 and December 2013. This was based on reports submitted by hospitals, patients, device manufacturers and others to the US Food and Drug Administration, and the study notes that the true number could be higher.