US regulators warn robotic surgeons are NOT safe to use on cancer patients after reports suggest doctors have been dodging the rules
- Robotically-assisted surgical devices are increasingly common in US hospitals
- But they are not approved for use on cancer patients because it’s not clear that survival rates are better than with traditional surgery
- In 2015, a study found robots were to blame for 144 deaths and more than 1,000 serious injuries in US operating theaters
- Today, the FDA told doctors to stop using these machines on cancer patients
Robotic surgeons could be risky for use on cancer patients, US regulators warned on Thursday.
The devices, such as the Da Vinci surgical robot, are increasingly common in operating theaters, allowing surgeons to commandeer the operation from a seat, zooming in on the surgical site with a camera, and controlling the many arms with gear sticks to make more precise incisions than ever possible with a human hand.
A recent report said these machines are expected to one day carry out almost every surgery possible, including C-sections.
But to this date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet approved their use for operations on cancer patients – and today issued a withering warning after reading studies that suggested doctors were dodging the rules.
The robotically-assisted surgical devices allow surgeons to commandeer the operation from a console, watching a high-definition video and they operate the many arms with gears (file image)
‘We want doctors and patients to be aware of the lack of evidence of safety and effectiveness for these uses so they can make better informed decisions about their cancer treatment and care,’ Dr Terri Cornelison, assistant director for women’s health at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said in a statement.
Speak to any surgeon who uses a Da Vinci, and you will be hard-pressed to find much complaint.
The machines are highly sophisticated and dynamic.
But they are not without fault. In 2015, a study found robots were to blame for 144 deaths and more than 1,000 serious injuries in US operating theaters.
The FDA is concerned that some procedures are too delicate, too serious, with too much on the line to take that risk.
Dr Cornelison called for more research into and refinement of robotic surgeries before it can be used to tamper with tumors.
Her comments come after reports emerged suggesting robotic surgeons have been used on cancer patients.
For example, in 2016, researchers at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center published a study about a radical hysterectomy performed on a surgical cancer patient.
‘The survival benefits to patients when compared to traditional surgery have not been established,’ Dr Cornelison said.