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Study Finds Da Vinci® Robotic Hysterectomies Cost More, But Not Safer than Alternative Procedures

A new study published in the medical journal Obstetrics & Gynecology concludes that hysterectomies performed with the Da Vinci® Surgical Robot are no safer than laparoscopic hysterectomies – and may actually increase the risk of certain injuries. Researchers from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center suggest that performing a hysterectomy with the Da Vinci® robot provides no safety benefits over laparoscopic surgery to justify the extra $2,500 costs associated with the robotic procedure.

Researchers looked at more than 800,000 hysterectomies performed in the United States during 2009 and 2010, and found that 20.6% were performed using laparoscopic surgery while 5.15% were performed using the Da Vinci® robot. They also found that a Da Vinci® robotic hysterectomy costs $2,489 more, on average, than a laparoscopic procedure. However, the rate of complications between the two procedures were essentially the same. Even though the Da Vinci® procedure costs more, its overall rate of complications was around 9% — the same rate as the laparoscopic procedure. The researchers also found that patients undergoing Da Vinci® robotic hysterectomies are more likely to experience pneumonia after operation.

These findings support earlier findings published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Researchers from Columbia University found that a hysterectomy performed by the Da Vinci® robot cost $2,000 more than laparoscopic surgery, yet held no additional safety benefits. Recently, researchers from Johns Hopkins warned that surgery complications associated with the device are underreported and suggested the risks are likely greater than believed.

The Da Vinci® Surgical Robot is manufactured and marketed by Intuitive Surgical, Inc. It is used in a number of surgical procedures across the country, including hysterectomies, gastric bypasses, prostate removals, gallbladder removals, and thyroid cancer surgeries. In July, the FDA issued a Class 2 Recall on approximately 30 Da Vinci® Surgical Robots after one of the affected devices was discovered to be malfunctioning. In conjunction with Da Vinci® safety concerns, Intuitive Surgical faces an ever-increasing number of lawsuits brought by patients who have experienced burns, tears, and other serious injuries. These lawsuits outline the aggressive tactics used by Intuitive Surgical to market the device and raise questions about the quality of training provided to surgeons.


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