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Robot hot among US surgeons, but FDA taking a new look

AP  Chicago, April 10, 2013
First Published: 00:49 IST(10/4/2013) | Last Updated: 02:01 IST(10/4/2013)

The biggest thing in operating rooms these days is a million-dollar, multi-armed robot named da Vinci, used in nearly 400,000 surgeries nationwide last year - triple the number just four years earlier.


But now the high-tech helper is under scrutiny over reports of problems, including deaths that may be linked with it and the high cost of using the system.

There also have been a few disturbing, freak incidents: a robotic hand that wouldn't let go of tissue grasped during surgery and a robotic arm hitting a patient in the face as she lay on the operating table.

Is it time to curb the robot enthusiasm?

Some doctors say yes, concerned that the "wow" factor and heavy marketing have boosted use. They argue that there is not enough robust research showing that robotic surgery is at least as good or better than conventional surgeries.

Many US hospitals promote robotic surgery in brochures, online and even on billboards. Their aim is partly to attract business that helps pay for the costly robot.

The da Vinci is used for removing prostates, gall bladders, repairing heart valves and transplanting organs.

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