Chris Simmonds, senior director of marketing services at Intuitive Surgical Inc., the maker of the da Vinci Surgical System, which is the most widely used robotic system, acknowledged that the company does provide ready-made marketing materials for hospital websites.
Simmonds disputed Makary's findings, however.
The evidence of the benefits of robotic surgery is well-documented, Simmonds said. "All the indicators in terms of length of stay, blood loss, complications and cancer control are all better," he said. The company does tell hospitals the system does provide better patient outcomes, he said.
Dr. David B. Samadi, chief of robotics and minimally invasive surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, said that "there is some truth to what Makary says."
"There is a lot of misinformation on some of the websites out there, and patients have to really dig in and make sure the information is correct," he said.
However, the key to successful robotic surgery is the same as any other surgery, namely the skill and experience of the surgeon, Samadi said. "This technology in the hands of an experienced surgeon is a great tool, but if you don't have the adequate training it could be quite dangerous," he said.
The procedure is being oversold, Samadi added, and it is sometimes being done by inexperienced surgeons.
"It's up to patients to get a second opinion," he said. Before undergoing robotic surgery, patients need to understand the risks and benefits and be confident that the surgeon is well-trained and performs many such procedures each year, he said.
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