Teen Creates Program to Guard Against Surgical Errors

Surgical errors can have devastating consequences. Pravalika Gayatri Putalapattus, a seventeen-year-old high school student from Virginia, knows this all too well.

In 2016, her cousin Sirisha underwent brain surgery in India. The purpose of the surgery was to remove a cancerous tumor. Sadly, a surgical error during the procedure resulted in Sirisha’s death.

Pravalika’s initial reaction to her cousin’s passing was naturally one of sorrow and confusion. However, the experience inspired her to take action.

Speaking with journalists, Pravalika stated “This error was preventable, which means that there exists sort of an alternative universe where she didn’t have to die during the surgery. Dealing with that loss was pretty difficult. I wanted to make a program that could help other families from having to deal with this type of loss.”

Pravalika began studying methods and technologies that could potentially be used to alert laparoscopic surgeons when they are about to make mistakes that could harm or kill patients. Her research led to the development of a program that relies on machine learning to essentially train a DaVinci laparoscopic surgical machine to avoid errors and identify when surgeons are about to make them.

This early version of the program is specifically designed to prevent errors during gallbladder removal procedures. Pravalika has explained that she chose to focus on this type of surgery because there is an abundance of annotated papers and resources on the subject, giving her machine learning program a lot of content it can “study” to learn more about the mistakes that could be made when this surgery is being performed.

In the Regeneron Science Talent Search 2022, the program placed seventh and earned a $70,000 prize. Pravalika herself admits that the program is currently more of a proof-of-concept invention than a practical tool.

While she states that in theory, using machine learning to identify when surgeons are making mistakes can help save lives, certain limitations need to be addressed. For instance, Pravalika concedes that a surgeon needs to be able to focus on their work when performing surgery. A device that alerts them if they are about to make an error must be able to do so without distracting them too greatly.

That said, this is the type of limitation that may be corrected in future iterations of the program. Again, the overall idea is sound.

Hopefully, tools and resources such as this become even more sophisticated and widely available. Unfortunately, as of now, surgical malpractice and surgical errors continue to be significant problems not only in India but here in the United States as well.

Do you believe you or a loved one was harmed because a surgeon or a member of their team was negligent in some capacity? If so, you may be eligible to recover compensation.

A Philadelphia surgical errors attorney at The Weitz Firm, LLC, can help by reviewing the details of your case, letting you know if it appears you have grounds to seek compensation, and providing the aggressive representation you deserve if you have a valid reason to file a claim or lawsuit. Contact us online or call us at 267-587-6240 to learn more.



    We are highly selective in the cases we undertake to ensure that can give each client his full attention. You can schedule an appointment for a personal injury consultation at our Philadelphia office by calling us, or by filling out our online intake form.