Brigham and Women’s Hospital Installing Practice Robot

The hospital is aiming to make robotic-assisted surgery safer.

By | Hub Health |

The da vinci robotic surgery system photo via Facebook.

The da vinci robotic surgery system photo via Facebook.

Robotic-assisted surgeries are increasing in the U.S. but so are the injuries and risks associated with this type of surgery. Massachusetts health¬†officials¬†sent hospitals an “advisory¬†letter” this past spring about rising¬†safety¬†concerns. The letter said that some of the surgeries may have been too complex for the technology, or that the¬†surgeons¬†were not skilled enough to accurately direct the robot’s actions.

In a proactive approach to the¬†problem,¬†Brigham and Women’s Hospital¬†(BWH) is¬†installing a full-size robotic surgery simulation console,¬†identical to the actual units currently used in the¬†hospital’s¬†operating rooms, in a place where surgeons can practice on it 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It’s the only one of its kind in Massachusetts. This way, surgeons can hone their skills and prevent any mistakes in robotic-assisted surgery.

“Safe robotic surgeons must become one with their operative console, so that the patient-side robot truly functions as an extension of their own body,” says Dr.¬†Antonio Rosario Gargiulo, medical director of the¬†Center for Robotic Surgery¬†at BWH. “This state-of-the-art simulator should give our patients confidence that their surgeon is always a technically competent robotic surgeon. Data suggests that complications from robotic surgery are less common beyond the early adoption phase by surgical teams. We have made an ethical choice: we want our surgeons to have every possible opportunity to learn, practice and improve their skills in a simulation laboratory environment, so that they are always ready to give their technical best in real surgery.”

According to USA Today, there were nearly 400,000 robotic-assisted surgeries performed nationwide last year, which is triple what it was just four years earlier. BWH surgeons have successfully performed more than 2,000 robotic-assisted surgeries in the past decade. In fact, some of their veteran surgeons have worked on three generations of FDA-approved robots.

The most common robot-assisted surgeries are ones that require operating in small, hard to reach areas like prostate removals, head and neck cancer surgeries, and rectal¬†surgeries. About¬†1,400 U.S. hospitals‚ÄĒnearly one out of every four‚ÄĒhave at least one robotic system. Each one costs about $1.45 million, plus $100,000 or more a year in service agreements.

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