Porter Adventist Hospital doctor charged by state medical board over botched robotic surgeries

DENVER - A doctor at Porter Adventist Hospital who uses a robotic arm for surgery has been charged by the state medical board with 14 counts of unprofessional conduct. One of the botched surgeries resulted in the death of a patient.

Dr. Warren Kortz is accused of leaving surgical sponges and instruments in patients, cutting and tearing patients' blood vessels, and injuring patients through improper padding and positioning, according to a complaint to the medical board.

The alleged mistakes span from 2008 to 2010. In many cases, Kortz did not tell his patients of alternatives to the DaVinci robotic surgery. The FDA announced Monday that it is doing a comprehensive review of robotic surgeries after reports of problems and deaths started to climb.

Kortz also failed to document the mistakes in patient charts, the Medical Board alleged in a complaint filed in early April. Kortz used the robot for complex kidney donor removals. Many of the surgeries resulted in sliced blood vessels and further surgical procedures to repair the bodily damage caused by the initial surgery.

Some of the more severe incidents include:

- In a Aug. 22, 2008 surgery, Kortz caused a hole to form in a patient's renal artery at the junction with his aorta. During the same surgery, radiological films showed a drain or sponge was left inside the patient after he had been sewn up.

- During a Sept. 26, 2008 surgery, Kortz caused a vein to bleed. While trying to stop the bleeding, Kortz cut the patient's distal aorta with the robot's scalpel. The patient suffered severe loss in blood pressure and cardiopulmonary resuscitation was needed to save the patient.

- During a Dec. 2, 2009 surgery, an 86-year-old man with metastatic cancer was being operated on. The standard procedure was an open procedure, but Kortz used the DaVinci robot. During the operation, the robot's arm was inappropriately moved, causing a tear in the patient's aorta. The aorta was repaired but renal failure, in which the kidneys fail to filter the person's blood, occurred after the surgery. The patient was taken off of life support shortly after the surgery and died.

-- Hospital filed complaint against doctor --

According to the complaint filed with the Colorado Medical Board, Porter Adventist Hospital reported to the board that it placed Kortz under precautionary suspension of any surgeries utilizing the DaVinci robotic surgical system on Sept. 20, 2010.

The hospital told 7NEWS it is doing extensive review of its standards.

The full statement from Porter Adventist said:

"Under Colorado law, the physician peer review process is confidential and we are not at liberty to comment on individual cases. However, anytime there is a clinical quality concern we employ a thorough and rigorous review process in accordance with federal and state laws. The process may include working with independent third-party review organizations such as the Center for Personalized Education for Physicians (CPEP) and the Colorado Physician Health Program (CPHP). Any actions taken by the hospital are based on this extensive and complete review process.

"In terms of patient safety, which is our first and foremost concern, Porter Hospital does everything in its power to uphold the highest medical standards and ensure exceptional levels of patient care. Just yesterday Porter was awarded with the Healthgrades 2013 Patient Safety Excellence Award (http://bit.ly/Yb6SYk) and received an "A" for hospital safety from The Leapfrog Group (http://bit.ly/10Mk6ML).

In regard to Dr. Kortz, he is a current member of the hospital’s medical staff, but he is not an employee of the hospital."

-- Dr.  Kortz still practicing --

According to a search of the state Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA) database, Kortz is still listed as an actively-practicing surgeon. However, a DORA spokesman said that the database may not have been updated yet, and it is possible that the medical board has put a temporary suspension on Kortz.

Porter Adventist Hospital told 7NEWS Kortz is no longer an active employee at the hospital but he is medical director of the hospital's transplant program.

A hospital spokesman, Tim Schonsey, said Kortz holds his own practice and is a member of the private medical group SurgOne. But Kortz is back on staff and performing surgeries with the DaVinci robotic surgery system at Porter Adventist Hospital, Schonsey said.

Schonsey said if Kortz is suspended by the medical board, he will be suspended from practicing at the hospital.

According to the SurgOne website, Kortz "is trained and experienced in the use of the DaVinci Robot in complex laparoscopic surgery. Dr. Warren Kortz cares for all surgical patients with cancer as well as endocrine, gastrointestinal, liver, bile duct, and pancreas problems."