TECH/QUALITY: Are laproscopes really dangerous?

There’s a new crisis every day, and Friday’s was a terrible new affliction as reported in the New York Times caused by poorly used laproscopes which burn holes and cause bacterial infections because don’t have a special new feature that tells the surgeon when they’re leaking electricity. So I asked a rather experienced laproscopic gynecologist that I’ve known all my life (thanks, Dad!) what he thought about how real this problem was? Here are his comments.

It has not happened to me but obviously does. Like all safety precautions it is a question of balancing costs and returns. As well as the cost of the monitoring methods there is the staff time in using them and probably reduced OR activity due to delays when monitoring. As far as I can see from the article there are no definitive figures as to the incidence of leakage burns due to defective insulation. I would guess there are more complications from inadvertant and unrecognised perforation of bowel inserting trochars or unrecognised direct burns from the working tip of the instrument being accidentally activated. There is no completely safe surgery.

Sensible words indeed. But of course, there is a solution!

Of course not coincidentally the stock of the company that makes the solution, called active electrode monitoring technology, went up 35% on twenty times the normal volume on Friday. Pure coincidence of course!


I’d be prepared to dive in
myself, if the last company the NY Times hyped up that I did dive into
hadn’t had its stock go down 30% since the article came out!
If you bought ECI today I hope that surgeons and hospitals are more
pliant to the NYT’s advice than are the school kids who’ve failed to
buy the Fly Pentop Computer.

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2 replies »

  1. Last year, AORN (www.aorn.org) noted in an update of its recommended practices for electrosurgery that the “use of active electrode shielding and monitoring minimizes the risks of insulation failure and capacitive-coupling injuries.”

  2. ECRI, (formerly the Emergency Care Research Institute) a nonprofit health services research agency hosted an audio conference, “Electrosurgery and Patient Safety: Critical Measures for Minimizing Risk,” in mid-March, 2005. A survey of the estimated 1,500 attendees, on whether any of their facilities experienced electrosurgical burns during the past year, revealed that more than 47 percent of these facilities responded one or two while nearly 3 percent answered “several.”