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For many Atlanta residents, the idea of being operated on by a robot may be an uncomfortable one. Although hospitals are touting robots as the next big thing in surgery, others note that surgical errors and medical malpractice are at least as much of a concern with robotic surgery as they are with traditional surgery.

A study was performed that reviewed medical records from 2007-2010 for over 264,000 women who had their uteruses removed for noncancerous conditions. The type of procedure was called a laparoscopic procedure, which is minimally invasive. It is performed either directly by a surgeon or by a robot controlled by a surgeon. The complication rate for the robotic version of the surgery was the same as the traditional surgery, which was 5%. Also, the robotic version of the surgery cost $8,868 to perform, while the equivalent surgery performed by humans cost around $2,000 less.

In other words, the more expensive robotic procedure did not have any measurable safety benefits and often took even longer to perform.

The Journal of the American Medical Association has advised hospitals to proceed with caution regarding robotic surgeries until more evidence can be collected and analyzed, or at least until the price comes down. However, hospitals have acknowledged feeling some pressure to appear to be on the cutting edge of technology. They see a surgeon-controlled robot as something they can use to better market their facilities to patients.

Atlanta residents need to be aware that surgical errors are a reality today. Patients deserve a clear picture of the risks, benefits and costs of any surgery, not a sleek marketing brochure version of what they will experience. When surgical patients do experience a complication due to a provider’s negligence, they should consult with a legal professional regarding a medical malpractice lawsuit. Victims of medical malpractice may be able to recover compensation for their suffering and their losses.

Source: Wall Street Journal, “Study Raises Doubts Over Robotic Surgery,” Melinda Beck, Feb. 19, 2013