More risk if inexperienced surgeons use the robots

High-tech robotic equipment to operate on patients with prostate cancer and other conditions are increasing now, but some medical authorities worry about inadequate training and lax standards among practitioners.

Doctors are opting for Intuitive Surgical's popular da Vinci Surgical System over conventional surgery, especially for removing the prostate gland, because it is less invasive and allows for greater precision. There were some 80,000 robotic prostatectomy procedures in the United States last year.

The device's robotic arms are equipped with tiny instruments and a camera. The instruments, inserted through small incisions, do the actual prodding and cutting with the surgeon operating the controls while viewing the procedure via a magnified three-dimensional screen.

The rate of failure for such surgeries is comparable to that of traditional surgeries but patients are more at risk if inexperienced surgeons use the robots.

Currently, there is no credentialing system to evaluate a surgeon's competency and surgeons cannot practice on simulators before taking on live patients. Dr Kevin Zorn, chief of urology at Weiss Memorial Hospital at the University of Chicago, believes such machines ought to exist.

He recounted one case of a surgeon who was using the system for the fourth time. After eight hours of surgery, the proctor - an experienced surgeon who supervises the operation - told the surgeon that progress was too slow.

He recommended the surgeon switch to conventional surgery, where an incision is made from the navel to the pubic bone to access the prostate.

After the proctor left the operating room, the surgeon continued using the robot. The patient later died from complications.

Source - Reuters



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