KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Officials Investigate If Use Of Surgical Robot Led To Injuries

The Wall Street Journal: Injuries at a small New Hampshire hospital that uses a surgical robot have some questioning the use of such machines in the care of people. The machine, which is named after Leonardo da Vinci, has been linked to surgeries where patients have been hurt, including two with lacerated bladders and one woman who required four subsequent surgeries after errors using the machine. "There's no evidence to suggest the injuries at Wentworth-Douglass were caused by technical malfunctions. Surgeons who use the da Vinci regularly say the robot is technologically sound and an asset in the hands of well-trained doctors. But they caution that it requires considerable practice." The machine, which uses four remote-controlled arms, is aimed to make surgery less invasive, and costs between $1 million and $2.25 million. "In addition, hospitals pay another $140,000 a year for the robot's maintenance and $1,500 to $2,000 per surgery for replacement parts." The machine is used in procedures from removing cancerous prostates to heart surgeries and is in use at 853 hospitals around the U.S. "One study published in the Journal of Urology found that a hospital needs to do at least 520 surgeries a year with the robot to bring its costs in line with traditional surgery" (Carreyrou, 5/4). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.