Da Vinci Prostatectomy – Side Effects & Complications

The da Vinci robotic surgery system, which can be used to perform prostatectomy, may decrease some of the risks of open prostate surgery. It may not, however offer significant improvement over traditional laparoscopic prostate removal and may pose a risk of serious complications.

When used for prostatectomy, the da Vinci robotic surgery system is intended to be a technological improvement over traditional “open” surgery.  It uses robot-assisted technology which allow the surgeon to perform complex, precise movements through wrist action using an electronic console.

Until the da Vinci robot prostatectomy procedure was developed, patients with prostate cancer had only two options.  Traditional surgery involved an open procedure which was performed through a large abdominal incision that ran from the umbilicus to the pubic bone.  Laparoscopic prostatectomy was performed through small incisions through which an endoscopic camera and surgical instruments were inserted.

The development of the da Vinci system prostate removal surgery expanded the options to include robot-assisted surgery through a small incision, similar to laparoscopy.  Though it was intended to improve patient outcomes, it still poses a number of similar risks and is much more costly than laparoscopic procedures.

Despite the continued risks and increased cost, more men are choosing to have da Vinci prostatectomy surgeries than any other treatment for the 1.8 million men who are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year.

Da Vinci Robot Prostatectomy Side Effects and Complications

Surgical treatment for prostate cancer usually involves removal of the entire prostate, which will affect sexual and urinary function in most patients.  Da Vinci prostatectomy was intended to be less invasive, protecting the sensitive nerves that control these functions and decreasing the risk of other potential complications.

It has not however, offered improvement over regular laparoscopic procedures and may pose the same risks as open prostatectomy, particularly if obstacles occur during the da Vinci surgery.

Complications of da Vinci robot prostatectomy include:

Severe bleeding

Open surgery may hold a higher risk for significant blood loss, however severe bleeding may be a significant concern in a da Vinci procedure.  It may be necessary for the surgeon to cut into veins or blood vessels in order to remove cancerous cells. This will create internal bleeding which must be controlled through cauterization, sutures or other methods.

Urinary incontinence

Urinary incontinence may be expected immediately following Da Vinci prostatectomy. Two muscles are needed to maintain urinary control, one of which resides in the prostate.  As the whole organ has been removed, the remaining muscle must be strengthened over time to perform the job on its own. Urinary control may improve over a period of months but may still be inadequate and lead to “dribbling”, weak stream and inability to stop urination.

Sexual dysfunction

Sexual dysfunction, or the inability to achieve or hold an erection, is a significant and bothersome side effect that may be experienced immediately following Da Vinci prostatectomy surgery. Sexual function in males is controlled by a delicate bundle of nerves which may be clipped, stretched or damaged during Da Vinci prostatectomy surgery. In some cases, it may be necessary to remove some of these nerves in order to remove all of the cancerous cells but in other cases, damage may be inadvertent.  If the nerves have been only stretched or suffered minor damage, sexual control may be temporary but when they have been cut or required removal, inability to maintain erection naturally may be permanent.

Conversion to open surgery

In addition, if mid-surgery complications occur, the surgeon may be forced to abandon the da Vinci method and convert to a traditional open prostate removal procedure which will add to the risks of bleeding, infection, urinary incontinence and sexual dysfunction.  This may occur due to machine malfunction or individual patient conditions.

Da Vinci procedures may take longer than regular laparoscopic or traditional open surgery and may require additional anesthesia time, furthering the risk of complications.  This may result in an unfortunate need to convert the surgery method, furthering risk to the patient.

Prostate Cancer Surgery

Prostate cancer affects one in six men in America during their lifetime and 1.8 million men are diagnosed with it every year.  It is not considered to be as life-threatening as other types of cancer and many men die of other natural causes, long before prostate cancer would become fatal.  In the case of men whose prostate cancer may be considered aggressive or when the patient is concerned about progression of the disease, there are three main treatment options.  These include only radiation, chemotherapy and prostatectomy.

Over the past several decades, men have undergone routine prostate cancer screening with a blood test which identifies markers of prostate cancer, however many experts believe screening has led to a large number of unnecessary treatments and prostatectomy procedures.  Some medical professionals have advocated a change in the treatment of prostate cancer but da Vinci prostatectomy has become the most common prostate cancer treatment method. This may be due to aggressive marketing techniques on the part of the hospital.

Many patients have been informed that Da Vinci prostatectomy surgery is safer and faster. However, this is not always necessarily the case. Some experts have theorized that the hospitals are driving popularity of the Da Vinci robot surgery in order to help cover the high cost of the Da Vinci robotic system.  A da Vinci robotic surgery system may cost upwards of $2 million initially and requires annual maintenance costing $100 thousand each year.

For patients, da Vinci robot prostatectomy is generally more costly than regular laparoscopic prostate removal.  If complications occur and procedure conversion to open surgery is required, it becomes even more expensive.

Compensation for da Vinci Robot Prostatectomy Injuries

People or loved ones of those who have been injured or suffered complications due to a da Vinci prostatectomy surgery may be eligible for compensation and should seek legal advice.