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Archive December 2018 XIX, No. 12

When the Robot Malfunctions

Prepare for the unexpected so glitches don't lead to disastrous outcomes.

Jill Hayward

Jill Hayward, BSN, RN, CNOR


Shirin Towfigh, MD
CONTINGENCY PLANNING Give your staff troubleshooting training to handle robotic emergencies.

What can go wrong during robot-assisted surgery? Plenty. To name a few: burned organs from stray electricity, nicked bowels, stabbed arteries and retained robjects (yes, broken or burned pieces of the robot falling into the patient's body). Yes, when a robot malfunctions during surgery, bad things can happen, including inconvenience, injury or even death.

As more surgeons in more specialties trade in their scalpels for joysticks and foot pedals, it's important not to lose sight of the serious risks that accompany the many benefits of robotic systems for minimally invasive surgery. Here's how to handle technical difficulties and in-procedure complications.

1. Troubleshooting training.

What if the arm locks up? What if we lose power? What if the patient makes an unexpected movement that disrupts the entire procedure? What if the table moves while the trocar is in the patient?

These what-if questions are invaluable to rehearse with your surgeon and staff. After all, a minimally invasive robotic surgery can become an emergency open procedure in an instant. You want to keep your OR team calm, cool and collected during a robotic emergency — and ensure they perform like a well-oiled machine.

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