da Vinci Robot Surgery Linked to Nerve Injuries

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Overview: About one in every 15 patients undergoing robot assisted surgery for prostate, kidney or bladder surgery suffers from a nerve injury, according to a new study. Reuters reports that researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine in Charlottesville have found that the positioning of the procedure, where patients often need to be steeply tiled, can put them at greater risk for nerve injuries. The da Vinci system, which is currently the only approved surgical robot developed by Intuitive Surgical, has already raised a number of safety concerns

  • The da Vinci surgical robot is linked to nerve injuries in a new study
  • The FDA announced last month that it would be investigating safety reports regarding robot-assisted surgery
  • ACOG and the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine have also warned about the risks of robotic surgery

Product: da Vinci surgical robot

Manufacturer: Intuitive Surgical Inc.

Side Effects & Complications

  • Cut Bile Duct
  • Bleeding
  • Adhesions
  • Damaged blood vessels
  • Organ damage
  • Nerve injury

Study Analyzes Nerve Injury with Surgical Robot

The study, published in The Journal of Urology, involved records from 334 robot-assisted urology procedures at the University of Virginia School of Medicine between 2010 and 2011, Reuters reported. Dr. Tracey Krupski and her colleagues analyzed prostate, kidney, adrenal gland and bladder surgeries. Overall, they found that 22 patients, or six to seven percent, suffered a positioning injury after their surgery; these injuries included weakness, numbness, or immobility in the hands of feet. In five cases, these complications persisted for over six months. Dr. Krupski told Reuters that the position of the patient is the main risk factor for such complications; in robot assisted surgery the patient often needs to be tilted steeply so that their head is by the floor and their feet are in the air. “When you slide, you then could be pulling, or having the drag on some of the nerves. It’s like a constant pulling on the muscle.” she said. Krupski stated that doctors and nurses can try to prevent these injuries by checking the positioning of the patient and paying close attention to what is happening to that patient while the procedure is being done.

da Vinci Safety Issues

This study is only the latest in a series of reports highlighting the risks of robot-assisted surgery. Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that it would further investigate safety reports related to the system. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists have also cautioned about the robotic surgery for hysterectomies, warning consumers to not be swayed by aggressive advertising. The Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine also issued an advisory warning about the risks in light of an increasing number of reports of injuries related to the da Vinci.