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Patients suffer severe injuries if a surgical robot malfunctions

Human error is one of the biggest risks during surgical procedures. Surgeons could leave items behind in the patient’s body, perform the wrong procedure or even operate on the wrong side of the body.

The introduction of surgical robots thrilled people in risk management and medicine alike as they saw the potential for drastically safer medical operations. While it is true that robots can theoretically remove some of the risks for human error, machines generate their own problems, like the potential for viruses affecting programming or a malfunction resulting in an injury to a patient.

Every year, patients who undergo robot-assisted surgery wind up hurt as a result. How common are robotic surgical injuries?

Robots malfunction less frequently than surgeons make mistakes

Every week, on average, there are dozens of noteworthy and possibly life-threatening mistakes made on operating tables across the United States. Compared with that, surgical robots experience malfunctions and commit errors at a substantially lower rate.

Errors only occur in about 0.1-0.5% of all robotic surgeries. Still, it is worth noting that when robotic surgical devices malfunction, severe patient injuries are often a possibility. Rates for permanent injury range from 4.8% to a shocking 46.6%.

User error still occurs with surgical robots

Despite what you may have thought about surgical robots, they are under the direct control of a trained surgeon. Although robot malfunctions are rare, surgeon mistakes while operating with surgical robots are much more common. The newer the device is, the less likely it is that the surgeon will have had adequate experience manipulating the device and getting it to work in an optimal fashion.

People who get hurt during robotic surgery, whether they were injuries because the device itself malfunctioned or the surgeon made a mistake while controlling the robot, may have grounds to bring a medical malpractice claim against the surgeon or possibly the hospital that failed to maintain the robot or the company that manufactured it.