Da Vinci Robot Side Effects & Complications

Da Vinci Robot surgery is a type of laparoscopic surgery performed using robot-assisted technology. It is minimally-invasive surgery used for a variety of surgical procedures but may cause serious side effects.

Robot-assisted surgical technology like the da Vinci robotic surgery system allows the surgeon to perform precise, complex movement through wrist movements using an electronic console.  It was designed to reduce the risks inherent in a traditional open surgery by operating through a small incision; reducing infection risk, blood loss, and recovery time.

Unfortunately, robot surgery is not without risks and the da Vinci robotic surgery may cause serious side effects, complications and injuries.

Complications of da Vinci Robotic Surgery
  • Bowel tear or perforation
  • Bladder perforation
  • Punctured uterus
  • Pneumonia
  • Perforation or puncture of other organs
  • Electrocution or electrical burns
  • Severe bleeding
  • Increased anesthesia time
  • Internal scarring
  • Required conversion to traditional surgery

Bowel and Bladder Injuries

Bowel injuries may occur as a result of the type of electrical current used by the robot or because the robotic arm tears or perforates the bowel.

Symptoms from bowel injuries arise within a few days of surgery and include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Abdominal distension

Unfortunately, many patients have returned home by the onset of these symptoms and if not treated quickly, bowel injuries can be fatal.

Bladder injuries may be caused in the same way as bowel injuries but may be immediately noticed and repaired during the initial procedure.

If bladder injuries are not identified immediately, they may cause:

  • Fever
  • Blood in urine
  • Pelvic pain

Long term, patients may suffer from pain and sexual dysfunction.

Additional surgeries may be required to repair both bladder and bowel surgeries, putting the patient at additional risk for infection and surgical complications and a lengthy recovery time.

Punctured Uterus

During uterine surgery performed by da Vinci robotic surgery, uterine puncture may occur.  This may increase the complexity of the surgery and risk for bleeding. The robotic arm may also slip through the punctured uterus to injure other organs.  In most cases, this injury will be noticed during the procedure.

Complications caused by perforation of the uterus may include:

  • Conversion to traditional open surgery
  • Increased infection risk
  • Internal scarring
  • Severe bleeding
  • Increased anesthesia time
  • Severe pain
  • Lengthy recovery time

In addition to the potential for complications caused by da Vinci robotic surgery, there do not appear to be any improvements over uterine surgery performed through traditional laparoscopic procedure and the robot surgery is done at about twice the cost.


Use of the da Vinci robot surgery system may increase the patient’s risk for pneumonia.  Researchers believe that as many patients who undergo hysterectomy or other da Vinci procedures are required to be in an angled head-down position, a buildup of fluid in the airways may increase the need for intubation.  Intubation, along with the fluid collected in the airway increases the chance for infection to develop, resulting in pneumonia.

Symptoms of pneumonia may include:

  • Deep cough
  • Fever
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • General feeling of illness

Electrical Burns and Internal Abdominal Injuries

Patients undergoing da Vinci robotic surgery have experienced perforations and tearing of other abdominal organs, along with internal burns caused by electrical current.  These injuries result in significant injury, increased surgery and anesthesia time, internal scarring and may require conversion to traditional surgery which increases the risk for infection and bleeding.

Perforation, tearing and electrical burns may be caused by robot malfunction but may also be caused by improper use of the machine by inadequately trained surgeons.  Training of surgeons is a significant issue and many surgeons have reported that they required more time than recommended in order to become proficient at use of the technology.  Not all hospital facilities which have purchased the system are able to provide the training necessary for surgeons to feel comfortable with the equipment.

Under-reporting of da Vinci Injuries and Deaths.

Researchers have found that the number of injuries and deaths associated with da Vinci robotic surgery systems may be under-reported.   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.

Injured by da Vinci Robot Surgery?

Many patients are happy with the results of their Da Vinci Robot surgery, but others have experienced serious complications resulting in serious medical injuries which may be long-term, debilitating and costly.

People who were injured or loved ones of those who died because of da Vinci robotic surgery may be eligible for compensation should seek legal assistance.

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