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Having Artificial Knee Salespeople in The OR During Your Surgery

Total knee replacement is the most popular surgical procedure in the nation, with more than 600,000 total knee replacement procedures performed each year.

surgeonThis popularity means that it is big business for hospitals, surgeons, and especially medical device manufacturers who manufacture the artificial knee implants.  What the general public may not know is that there is a lot of competition among the makers of these artificial joints before they make it into the hands of surgeons and eventually into the bodies of patients.

According to a recent news feature from the Washington Post, these medical device companies have sales representatives in the operating room during your surgery.  They also have sales reps in the OR as technical advisors to help with the implantation of pacemakers and even spinal surgery.

The hospitals seem to allow this because the sales reps, which have the formal title of Healthcare Industry Representatives, are said to be experts on their products, and that makes risk management happy.  Although, that is perhaps not because they prevent an emergency, but because, in the event that something goes wrong, it is easier to avoid liability by arguing that the injury was a result of a defective medical device rather than medical malpractice.

This actually makes some sense, because there have been many artificial joints, such as some models of the Stryker artificial knee, that were defective.  As our Boston injury attorneys have seen in many cases, it doesn’t matter how well trained the orthopedic surgeon is when he or she is unknowingly implanting a defectively designed artificial knee.

As for the reps themselves, they are not allowed to scrub in for surgery and are not allowed to actually touch anything, but they are expected to be experts on the products and manufacturers they represent.  They are paid a lot of money to perform that service and work with the same doctors over and over again, so they are supposed to develop a rapport with them.

As the article discusses, the interesting thing about these medical device reps is that there has been little question about why they are in the OR or what they are doing; yet, drug sales reps have been heavily regulated in recent years.  Ten years ago, drug reps would routinely give doctors and their entire office free meals in the office and take them to fancy restaurants. They have also given gifts to doctors to get them to use their more expensive new drugs over generics.  Congress and the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come down hard on these practices and outlawed most of this behavior.  However, there does not seem to be much oversight with regard to medical device reps.

However, this may be changing, as there are questions about how doctors are reporting medical devices to Medicare, and whether they are being advised by medical device reps as part of the reporting process.  There was also a high profile products liability and medical malpractice lawsuit in which the plaintiff was awarded around $2 million.  During that surgery, the device rep told the surgeon that their cement product would seal a hole in the patient’s head.  It did not.

Call the Boston Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential appointment — 1-888-367-2900.

Additional Resources:

Why is that salesman in the operating room for your knee replacement?, November 14, 2016, By Sandra G. Boodman, Washington Post

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