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One Woman’s Da Vinci Complications Beyond Words

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Baltimore, MDWhile the da Vinci surgical robot delivers maximum “wow” factor for precision from its 10,000 components and is being deployed at more and more hospitals in spite of a $1.5 million price tag to acquire one, some patients have allegedly suffered negative outcomes from the devices, and have responded with a da Vinci lawsuit.

One of those plaintiffs is Michelle Zarick, who underwent a hysterectomy aided by the da Vinci surgical robot. Zarick told NBC’s investigative program Rock Center that her doctor was “excited” about the prospect of using the robot for the procedure. Da Vinci robot surgery is used in an increasing number of hysterectomy procedures. And there is little doubt that most of the 400,000 robotic-assisted surgeries performed in 2012 were successful.

However, Zarick’s procedure, in 2009, was not. In an interview with NBC News chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman, Zarick felt fine for the first while following her surgery. Then, in February of that year - five weeks after her surgery - the “seal” stitched into place by the surgical robot where her uterus and cervix used to be failed. Sitting on the toilet, “I felt like I had to have a bowel movement, and - as I was bearing down - I felt something kind of pop inside me,” she told the interviewer in comments broadcast on Rock Center in June. She looked down and was shocked to see her intestines drooping out of her vagina.

Zarick had the problem repaired with emergency surgery and is one of several plaintiffs having launched a da Vinci lawsuit.

While the majority of surgeries performed by the da Vinci robot are successful with few or no complication, there have been sufficient incidents of da Vinci robot failure to prompt the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to look into the matter.

Not all doctors are sold on the device. Dr. Martin Makary told CNN last month, “The Achilles heel of robotic surgery is that the robot cannot feel the tissue, so the surgeon can make an inadvertent injury to a major structure, and that is a unique problem with this kind of surgery,” said the senior surgeon at Johns Hopkins Medical Institute in Baltimore, in comments published to CNN (8/5/13). “I’m not anti-robot, but for most of the operations where robotic surgery is used, there’s no benefit to the patient. More technology doesn’t necessarily mean better quality healthcare.”

In a separate interview with NBC Rock Center (6/14/13), Dr. Makary noted “We’ve got great, state-of-the-art, minimally invasive techniques that have worked for years, sometimes decades, that are now being replaced with more expensive robotic technology, without a benefit to the patients.”

Supporting Makary’s comments is a published study that determined robotic surgery did not reduce complication rates inherent with hysterectomies when compared with more traditional procedures, while adding $2,189 to the cost.

According to both CNN and NBC, da Vinci made its first sale of the da Vinci robot to a German hospital in 1998, and has been selling the $1.5 million units steadily ever since - first to regional hospitals in major centers, and more recently, to smaller community hospitals trying to compete with the larger centers. Once the expensive system has been acquired, it has been alleged that there is pressure on surgeons to put it to use.

Not lost on any plaintiff having filed a robot lawsuit is concern over training protocols. According to NBC’s extensive Rock Center report, surgeons training to use the da Vinci surgical robot practice on animals and cadavers before being issued a certificate of training from da Vinci. Then it is up to the local hospital to determine at what point the surgeon is granted the privilege to operate solo with the device. There have been reports that some have “soloed” on the da Vinci after just three supervised procedures.

“So the real question is…is it still safe? In the hands of a good surgeon, yes,” Dr. Makary told Rock Center. “In the hands of someone who may not have the advanced skill sets, it could be a real danger.

“The robot is a technical tour-de-force, but I think patients need to know that for some procedures, there’s no benefit.”


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On March 11 2014, My Dad underwent surgery at a Little Rock Ar. hospital for a reported cancer tumor on his kidney. He did not know that the Dr. was using the Da Vinci robot until the morning of surgery, we had no time to research the device and he gave us no information or warnings about it. During the procedure the Dr. encountered a large amount of scare tissue from a previous surgery but decided to proceed on to the kidney. After completing the surgery the Dr. told us he had cut a small intestine and repaired it before closing. On March 13th the Dr. came in to remove the drain tube and discovered in was full of bile. Dad was moved back in surgery to repair a tear in his small intestine by a different surgeon without the use of the robot. The surgeon found several holes in his small intestine caused by pulling the adhesion loose with the robot. The surgeon said he found a "Mess" when he opened him up. He had to remove 24" of Dads intestine, he said it was better to remove it than try to repair it. Dad was on a ventilator for 14 days, we are 23 days and counting with weeks to go. By the way,,,Dad DID NOT have cancer, benign cyst. Do your research before allowing a Dr. to use the Robot.

Posted by

My wife had the di vinci hysterectomy in September 2013. I agreed after looking over pamplets, speaking with Germany patients & talking to other people who said 'the robot is your best way to go.' Many complications have arisen, since surgery. First ,my wife had a hematomia the size of a grapefruit the fourth dayafter surgery. The operating ob-gynotoligist said. 'I don't use gauze,after my wife ask " could this lump be gauze? "Doctor explained on speaker phone, "I do not use gauze or make mistakes! So we waited, till once more my wife said "this lump is bothering me, not being able to wear anything around stomach area!"So I said "call that doctor and tell her we are going to the hospital!" Called doctor and she said very well "I will call hospital and they will be waiting your arrival." I took my wife there all the while wishing I should of never agreed for her to have the hysterectomy to begin with,since only pre-cancer cells were only found. Hospital ER were not expecting us. The two doctors were quoted saying, 4 hours later," we are unable to get a hold of your doctor, some doctors have the God syndrome." I feared for my wife's life since she can not do half what she could do before surgery. The hospital went a head and put my wife on antibiotics and sent us home. My wife called doctor's office to find out why she sent her to ER and not one person had called us back. No call backs and seeing my wife, in such pain made me concerned "Could this robot have been recalled or was the grapefruit sized hematoma, burning & stabbing problems be normal? We finally had an appointment weeks later where we observed doctor standing behind bar desk with her head, down! Assistant said "It is normal by showing long swab with little blood on it. My wife said Doctor said after surgery, "I got all the cancer".Assistant @ that comment said "you did not have cancer just pre-cancer cells. I ask about results of my wife's ER visit. She said you have to get records released for the hospital froze records.My wife has gone to a different ob-gyn and found burns and vaginal cuff problems. My wife has under gone urology surgery for ob-gyn doctor thought bleeding might be in the urethea area .Six months later now my wife is signing release of records to find out why anemia,bruises @ surgery closures and pain are still a problem. Next the colon,small & large intestine are soon to b next surgery again to find out why bruises and blood show. My wife went through cancer surgery 19 years ago with lots of chemo-therapy, which doctors in KY said my wife only would live 3 to 6 months, with a grapefruit size tumor growing between breast was growing into lung @ heart area. A doctor named Randolf Broun, in Ohio said " I don't give time, talk to the man upstairs and I'll double up on chemo-therapy, not just to see, 1 year old son graduate, but to see grandchildren graduate. Our son graduated and our grandchildren are 7 & 11 years old. My wife's lease on life was back, until this surgery has wiped out that smile and twinkle in her eyes. Please, will you pray for my wife's doctors to find bleeding problem and get back to living?
Thank-You and GOD BLESS YOU. Dan brown


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