This surgical technology case involves a forty-five-year-old patient who underwent a hysterectomy for excessive fibroid growth. Her physician used the da Vinci Surgical System for her surgery, and, prior to the procedure, he assured her that it was a safe, new technology that would reduce her stay in the hospital. According to the operative note, the procedure was conducted without incident, but when the patient awoke from surgery, she noticed severe burns on her abdomen and upper thighs. The da Vinci Surgical System did not hold a proper ground during the procedure and the patient sustained significant burns to her skin from the high-intensity electrical energy. The patient had to undergo plastic surgery to remove scar tissue as a result of the severe burns.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Is this an accepted complication of this device and how can this be prevented?
Expert Witness Response E-000493
Surgical burns can be associated with any surgery that uses the monopolar energy scissors, which are surgical instruments used in electrosurgery. In the case of the da Vinci machine, an electrified instrument is attached to a robotic arm that is controlled by a physician at a console. It has been reported that the electrical current can unintentionally jump from the arm if the insulation between the patient and the device is inadequate. Researchers warn that a lack of insulation can cause electrical arcing, causing burns when electricity jumps from the robot to a patient’s body. In most cases, this occurs without the surgeon being aware of the malfunction.