Dangerous Products in the Operating Room

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The use of robots to perform minimally invasive cancer surgeries results in twice the rate of cancer recurrences, and 6 times as many deaths as patients who have had open surgical procedures, this according to a recent article in the New York Times.

Recent Studies on Robotic Surgery Techniques

Two articles recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine have documented this increased risk of cancer recurrence and death in minimally invasive robotic surgery techniques. In fact, the first study compared outcomes for patients who would undergo minimally invasive robotic hysterectomies for cervical cancer, versus patients who had an open surgical hysterectomy. This study, performed at the University of Texas Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, was halted before completed because the initial data demonstrated these alarming increases in harm for those whose surgeons used the robotic, minimally invasive technique.

A second study sponsored by the National Institute of Health showed the same results.

Why Robotic Surgery Techniques are Dangerous

The reason minimally invasive robotic surgery technique yields these significantly worse and deadly results is not known. However, Dr. Pedro Ramirez, the physician who was the lead researcher in the University of Texas study, suggests that the instruments used to manipulate the cervix and uterus may cause cancers cells to spread. Another possibility is that the use of carbon dioxide, which is pumped into the patient’s abdomen during the laparoscopic procedure, increases the likelihood of cancer cells implanting and remaining in the patient’s tissues.

As quoted in the New York Times article, Dr. Ramirez states “My feeling is, this is about patient care. It’s not about how much time you devoted to your training [to learn the minimally invasive robotic surgery technique] or your ego. It’s an issue of cancer, and having a high likelihood of cancer coming back if you of surgery through this approach.”

Whatever the reason, it is important for physicians to warn patients of this dangerous equipment, and inform that there is a safer technique available. It is, after all, the patient’s body, not the doctor’s body and not the equipment manufacturer’s body. In fact, the law requires a physician to identify all viable treatment options so the patient can make an informed decision on which treatment to undertake.