Surgeons call for medical 'report cards' for robotic surgeons

Patient Advocate: We need national standards, credentialing

By Mike Holfeld - Investigative Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - Medical professionals familiar with patient injuries linked to Da Vinci robotic surgical procedures told WKMG-TV there are some surgeons who shouldn't be performing those surgeries because they don't have enough experience.

An Arizona physician, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said, "The assumption is that you already are competent and (have hospital privileges) to perform laparoscopic surgery. The requirement to be privileged in robotic surgery is three cases."

Several board-certified surgeons told WKMG-TV that's not enough for any surgeon learning the new technology.

A veteran surgeon who spoke on condition of anonymity said "I think there are certain surgeons who should not be doing robotic surgery."


The surgeons who spoke to WKMG-TV felt that patients need to have access to a surgeon's success rate, a sort of medical report card.

David Antoon, 69, a volunteer patient advocate with Consumer Reports, told WKMG-TV he agrees but he wants the federal government to develop a protocol for training surgeons on the Da Vinci devices or any robotic surgical system.

"We need national credentialing standards," Antoon said."We do not have that in this country."

Antoon filed a lawsuit against the Cleveland Clinic after he learned his prostate surgery was "handed off to doctors in training."

His 10-year legal fight ended in dismissal but he blames that on tort reform that limited his legal leverage.

"Nobody gets full accountability in a lawsuit," Antoon said. "You can't be made whole."

Nativity Najera, 36, of Arizona, is still looking for an attorney to represent her in a malpractice case involving a hysterectomy.

She blames the manufacturer Intuitive Surgical Systems Inc., as well as her gynecologist, who, according to Najera, had performed less than a dozen hysterectomies using the device when he performed hers.

"It's been horrible," a tearful Najera told WKMG-TV. I've had five surgeries, three procedures to help me with the pain and walking, and I pretty much lost my life in those couple of seconds."

Najera said she was a very active "soccer mom" now she says, she can't leave her house because of the pain.

The Da Vinci website clearly states that "there are risks with any surgical procedure."

The $2 million machine is designed to provide minimally invasive surgery.

A recent review of Food and Drug Administration records by Pennsylvania-based Device Events found more than 19,000 reported malfunctions, injuries, and deaths involving Da Vinci robotic-assisted surgeries between 2000 and September 2017.


There have been an estimated 3 million procedures performed using the Da Vinci system.

Still, some doctors aren't sure the technology is effective in all procedures.

Thursday's Wall Street Journal cited medical studies in the Journal of American Medical Association that said,  "in some types of surgery," robotic surgical procedures "have a lower success rate."

For more information on the data or Da Vinci Surgery go to: DeviceEvents.com or www.davincisurgery.com/.

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