Da Vinci Robot Side Effects

da vinci robotDa Vinci Robot surgery is a type of laparoscopic surgery performed using a robotic machine. Instead of the surgeon’s hands directly operating the surgical tools, he or she sits at a console a few feet from the patient and uses a panel of instruments to control a robot equipped with tools. It is considered a minimally invasive form of surgery, like traditional laparoscopic techniques, and it offers a greater range of movement than a human hand. Da Vinci surgery is used for hysterectomies, prostatectomies, gall bladder removal, and gastric bypass procedures. Unfortunately, robot surgery is not without its risks.

One of the main criticisms of the device is the amount of training needed to operate it successfully. There is a steep learning curve with all new surgery techniques, but operating the Da Vinci Robot is especially complex. Unfortunately, not all hospitals are setting the bar high enough for training. The manufacturer of the robot provides initial training during setup, but for many, there is little training other than this. Often, it is lack of training, as opposed to robotic malfunction, that leads to injury.

Injuries as a Result of Da Vinci Robot Surgery

Bowel and Bladder Injuries

Bowel injuries occur as a result of the mono-polar current used by the robot or because the robotic arm tears the bowel. Symptoms from bowel injuries arise within a few days of surgery and include abdominal pain, nausea, fever, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal distention. Unfortunately, many patients have returned home by the onset of these symptoms and if not treated quickly, they can be fatal.

Bladder injuries are sometimes immediately noticeable and repaired during the initial procedure. If bladder injuries go untreated, they can trigger fever, blood in the urine, and pelvic pain. Additional surgeries are required to repair bladder injuries and most patients suffer from long-term pain and sexual dysfunction as a result.

Punctured Uterus

Another issue that occurs when hysterectomies are performed using the Da Vinci robotic system is uterine puncture. In addition to increased health risk, there is also evidence that surgery is unnecessarily expensive. Most surgeons and patients find the same results can occur with a traditional laparoscopic hysterectomy, but at about half the cost. A study at the University of Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas found the greater cost was not associated with any type of improvement in outcomes.

In addition to no noticeable improvements over traditional laparoscopic procedures, Da Vinci robot surgery also increases a patient’s risk for developing pneumonia. Researchers believe this is because intubation is often needed after an operation. Patients spend their operation positioned at a steep angle with their head facing toward the floor. This can create a build up of fluid in the airways, requiring intubation.

Organ Perforations, Tears, and Burns

Studies have also shown Da Vinci robot surgery also puts internal organs at risk. Patients undergoing robotic surgery have experience perforations, burns, and tearing during surgery. These injuries can be caused by robot malfunction, but more often than not are due to mishandling of the machinery.

Another significant issue researchers are finding related to Da Vinci surgery is the under-reporting of injuries and deaths related to use of the robot. Over the course of 12 years the FDA received just under 250 report of incidents related to robotic surgery. Investigators later found additional instances that were reported in the media or elsewhere, but were never officially reported to the FDA. In more than one instance, injuries and fatalities reported to the FDA were not reported until several hundred days after the incident. In one case, it took 930 days after the surgery for the problem to be reported. Researchers acknowledge under-reporting is an issue with most medical procedures.

What We Can Do

There are patients happy with the results of their Da Vinci Robot surgery, but many in the medical field believe those results would have been possible with traditional laparoscopic methods.

If you have experienced an injury or a loved one has been injured or killed during a Da Vinci robotic procedure, you may be eligible for compensation. The more information you have the better a decision you can make regarding your future. If you would like more information about your rights related to surgical injuries, contact us.

View Sources
  1. Tanner, Lindsey. "'Da Vinci,' Robot Popular Among Surgeons, Has Regulators Worried About Safety." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 09 Apr. 2013. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/04/09/da-vinci-robot_n_3042258.html
  2. Langreth, Robert. "Robot Surgical Incidents May Pressure Hospital Training." Bloomberg Business Week: News from Bloomberg. Bloomberg Business Week, 11 Nov. 2013. http://www.businessweek.com/news/2013-11-11/intuitive-robot-surgery-incidents-add-to-call-for-more-training
  3. "Study Says Using the Da Vinci Surgical Robot for a Hysterectomy Fails to Cut Complications and May Raise Pneumonia … –." Fertility Portal. Fertility and Infertility Research News Portal, 11 Sept. 2013. http://www.fertilityportal.com/hysterectomy/study-says-using-the-da-vinci-surgical-robot-for-a-hysterectomy-fails-to-cut-complications-and-may-raise-pneumonia.php