Robotic Surgery: Increasing Risk?

Source: University of Washington

Photo Courtesy of: University of Washington

Robotic Surgeries making headlines again:  “Robotic surgery is high-tech ‘tour de force’ — but is it safe?”

Is a car safe?  ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING MECHANICAL is subject to damage  – cars, robots, space shuttles, you-name-it, and the more complex the machine, the more (unknown) variables there will be to uncover and prepare for.  As is also the case with electromechanical mechanisms, it is how they are used that often makes them safe or ‘not safe’; and this is the grey area of robotics – who is responsible if a robot is not run or maintained properly – the manufacturer or the user in charge of maintenance?

If a worker at a manufacturing plant does not shut off the equipment before entering the workspace of a robot’s arm and accidentally gets hit (and killed) by the arm, the media story may run as “Robot kills human” – when it should read ‘Human kills himself accidentally by not following proper procedures’.

There are many variables as to what comprises a ‘safe’ robotic surgery, but it’s important to get all the facts, especially regarding the importance of practitioner training, approaches, procedures, and appropriate case selection.

There are hundreds of published studies that indicate the safety and effectiveness of surgical robots, though perhaps unbeknownst to the public, such as: