Besides, Makary adds, "to have only 245 complications of such a complex technology over a decade, that seems very, very low, especially since in our surgical community, we all know of complications and we discuss them when surgeons get together.
"We commonly hear things like, someone knows someone at their hospital who had a very bad complication from robotic surgery, and I personally know of accounts from other doctors who have told me about dozens of complications."
And that there would only be 245 such adverse events associated with the robot, plus the additional ones his researchers found, is unlikely the true number for another reason, Makary notes.
"We know one attorney in Louisiana who identified about 20 patients who were harmed with robotic surgery, and filed a malpractice claims, and if the 245 is accurate, then he must—just in his region—have 10% of all the complications that have occurred from the robot over the last decade. That's a data point that makes you think this number is just far too low."
Makary's paper, which is published in this week's issue of the Journal for Healthcare Quality, details the rates at which fatal and non-fatal events occur in various specialties and in numerous types of procedures, and the type of patient harm. Of the 245 harmful events reported, 71 patients died and 174 patients sustained other types of harm.