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A report titled Another Reason Why You Should Ban Smart Phones from the OR raise, at least for me, this question: What’s the first reason? Is there any reason why a surgeon, anesthesiologist, nurse or surgical tech should be using a smart phone in the OR? Granted, some hospitals may utilize tablets to record patient vitals, but what reason is there to be surfing the ‘net during a procedure?

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And as for the anesthesiologist posting to Facebook during a procedure? Seems to me this doctor needs to have his license revoked.

The DaVinci robotic surgery system by Intuitive Surgical, Inc. is a high tech, 3D “robot” remotely operated by a surgeon. The DaVinci system is the hottest new product, touted by Intuitive and the hospitals it sells the system to as the greatest thing since the invention of the scalpel. They promise more precision, faster recovery and other benefits. But is it all that? Reality is substantially at odds with the marketing hype.

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The DaVinci robot is, at its core, simply another way to perform laparoscopic surgery. Laparoscopic minimally invasive surgery has been around for 20+ years and is utilized in many common surgical procedures: gallbladder, hysterectomy, prostatectomy, hernia and many others. Laparoscopic surgery is performed by a surgeon who places ports into the abdomen and insufflates the abdominal cavity with gas to allow for room to insert and manipulate surgical instruments through the ports. A camera and light are inserted through one port, so that the surgeon can see inside the patient on a video monitor. The surgeon directly manipulates the instruments through the portals. For more on laparoscopic surgery, see this article in Wikapdia.

The DaVinci system differs in that the surgeon’s direct contact with the instruments is severed. Traditional portals are placed, but then instruments and camera are inserted and these are attached to the DaVinci robot system. The surgeon, although still in the same OR room, sits at a remote console and operates the instruments via joystick-like controllers. An easy way to visualize it is to say it is like he is playing a video game. Except in this case, he doesn’t get to simply start over if a problem arises.

Intuitive has saturated the market with the DaVinci robot, by hyping the purported advantages of the system. They claim that the robotic system allows the surgeon an unprecedented 3D view inside the patient, as opposed to the 2D view of traditional laparoscopy. They assert that the system allows for the surgeon to make minutely accurate motions, because he or she can move their hands in the controls but have that translate to only millimeter movements inside the patient. It all sounds great. But the reality is not quite equal to the hype.

Reports have indicated problems with the robotic arms moving independently, causing internal injuries. Reports exist that the electric cautery instruments used in parts of certain procedures are sending electrical arcs out and causing burn injuries to adjacent organs or even causing remote injuries to organs far removed from the surgical location due to improper grounding. There have been reports of the system simply freezing during a procedure.

Even more frightening are the indications that hospitals are allowing surgeons to utilize the DaVinci with very little training and very little supervision. Any time a new surgical technique or tool is introduced, the surgeon and the hospital have a responsibility to make sure the surgeon has adequate training. Some sources indicate that a surgeon may require 100 or more surgeries before he is technically competent with the DaVinci. However, hospitals are not requiring anything like 100 supervised surgeries before turning the surgeon loose to fly solo on the DaVinci. In fact, some are requiring little more that a weekend training session.

Suffice it to say, that we anticipate significant malpractice claims arising out of the use of DaVinci robotic surgery systems. Product liability claims against Intuitive may be warranted in some cases. But even more likely are cases against the surgeons and the hospitals for malpractice, failure to advise the patients of the surgeon’s lack of experience, inadequate training of support staff and many other issues.

If you or a loved one has experienced injuries in connection with a DaVinci robotic surgical procedure, please contact our office for a consultation. Only an experienced medical malpractice attorney can tell you whether or not you have a case.

I’m pleased to share 10 Red Flags in General Surgical Malpractice Cases, published in the September 2012 issue of Trial magazine. Trial is the peer-reviewed journal of the American Association of Justice, the national trial lawyer’s association.

I was honored to be asked to contribute to such a prestigious publication.

The FDA has recalled Bard Surgical mesh distributed by RAM Medical, Inc., a medical product distributor in Wayne, New Jersey.

Surgical mesh is used in hernia and other abdominal surgeries to strengthen or repair defects in the abdominal wall or peritoneum. For example, in repairing an abdominal hernia, a surgeon may use surgical mesh to create a “backing” that will reinforce the repair.

The counterfeit Bard surgical mesh ranges in size from 2″x4″ to 10″x14″. It is not properly sterilized, the edges are not properly finished and the weave is larger. This mesh can cause infection and failures of the repair, necessitating additional surgeries and other complications. The counterfeit mesh was distributed beginning October 21, 2008. You can review the recall notice here.

If you or a loved one had a surgery using mesh after October 21, 2008, and have experienced any infection, pain or other complications, you may have received the recalled mesh. If so, you have legal rights that need to be protected. Please call the Law Office of Todd N. Hendrickson at 314-721-8833, or click here to submit an inquiry.

The New York Times is reporting that doctors are finding that “metal on metal” hip implants are failing at a much higher and faster rate than expected, leading to the need for early revision and replacement.“Metal on metal” refers to the materials used in the design. A typical hip implant consists of a femoral stem which is fixed into the femur or thigh bone. The hip socket (or acetabulum) is replaced with a “cup” of one design or another. A ball device is attached to the end of the femoral stem and fits into the acetabulur component, completing the ball and socket joint. Until about 10 years ago either the ball or the liner of the acetabulm was made of either ceramic or a poly plastic. Beginning in the late ’90s manufacturers began replacing either the ball or the cup or both with metal components. The theory was that the patient would achieve a longer life thus avoiding revision surgery to replace either the ball or the cup or both. The older ceramic and poly components had typical lifespans of 15 to 20 years.The theory is apparently proving to be false. As the is reporting, these metal on metal implants are failing much sooner than expected, some in as little as two years. What is occurring is the wear of the components is creating metal debris which is destroying soft tissue and bone. The estimate now is that 1 to 3% of implants are failing at this rate. However, since the metal on metal didn’t reach the peak of their popularity until 5 years or so ago, the real extent of the problem is still unknown. Given that 80,000 or more of these implants are used in primary replacements a year, that could be anywhere form 8,000 to 24,000 patients affected each year. Given that the typical hip replacement procedure can cost anywhere from $20,000 to $30,000 and lead to additional lost income and other losses, the financial impact on patients is potentially extensive.If you have experienced an early component failure, either due to pain or component loosening, or have had your hip implant revised for other reasons earlier than expected, you may want to consider a product liability action against the implant manufacturer. If you would like to explore this further, please feel free to contact me, attorney Todd N. Hendrickson. Although my practice is concentrated in Missouri and Illinois, I will consider appropriate cases throughout the United States. I have extensive experience and expertise in medical malpractice and medical product liability litigation, with particular emphasis in orthopeadic matters, including hip, knee and shoulder replacements. I have successfully litigated cases against hip implant manufactures for a variety of matters and I am uniquely qualified to review these types of cases.

The Law Offices of Todd N. Hendrickson are accepting cases involving possible surgical site infections caused by contaminated forced air warming devices. In many surgeries hospitals utilize a forced air warming device to maintain the patient’s body temperature. The most commonly used of these devices is Arizant’s Bair Hugger (R). These are essentially large driers which blow hot air through a perforated warming blanket.Our investigations indicate that these devices may trap and contain bacteria, forcing it onto the patient during surgery.If you or a loved one has suffered a surgical site infection you may have a claim. Please contact us to discuss your case.