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Patient Safety Risks Higher When Da Vinci Robot Introduced

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July 10, 2014 — A study published in JAMA Surgery has found higher rates of patient safety hazards during the first few years after the Da Vinci Surgical Robot was adopted in clinical practice — especially in teaching hospitals.

The study was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). They looked at data on 401,325 patients who had a radical prostatectomy (surgery to remove the prostate) between January 1, 2003 and December 31, 2009.

In 2005, researchers found that patient safety risks were twice as high for patients treated with the Da Vinci robot, and three times higher for patients at teaching hospitals.

The popularity of the Da Vinci Surgical Robot skyrocketed in the last decade. By 2006, 10.4% of all prostatectomies were performed with a robot. This number has increased substantially since then.

The study suggests a steep learning curve as the Da Vinci robot was rapidly introduced during the last decade. The researchers recommended introducing a system to help protect patients safety when new surgical procedures become popular.

In an editorial accompanying the study, researchers from Johns Hopkins disagreed with the conclusions, but agreed that patient safety is important when new technology is introduced:

“Current systems for the adoption of novel procedures are not formalized nor are they consistent across practices. Designing a new adoption system that ensures quality of care is a laudable but formidable task.”

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