Robotic Surgery Side Effects Linked to Risk of Nerve Injury: Study

Amid increasing concerns about reports of problems with the da Vinci surgical robot, a new study indicates that many individuals who elect to undergo robotic surgery for the prostate, kidney or bladder may face a risk of suffering a nerve injury.

According to a study published this month by The Journal of Urology, researchers from the University of Virginia School of Medicine say they have found a correlation between the use of a robot during surgery and nerve damage, which could be caused by the need to tilt patients steeply during robotic surgery, which could last for hours.

Researchers found that nerve injuries potentially caused by side effects of robotic surgery affected nearly 7% of patients who underwent robot-assisted urologic surgery. While most of the reported nerve damage resolved within one month after surgery, more than 20% experienced problems that persisted beyond six months.

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The study involved a review of all adult urologic cases at the University from January 2010 through December 2011. Out of 334 robotic surgeries, 22 resulted in positioning injuries were identified, or about one out of every 15 people. While 13 of those injuries resolved within a month, four cases took between one and six months to resolve and another five took mor than six months.

Researchers found that the longer the operation and the longer the patient was in the operating room both contributed to an increased risk of nerve injury. The study concluded that positioning injuries are an under-reported side effect of robotic-assisted urologic surgery and can last longer than six months in some cases.

Da Vinci Robot Linked to Complication Concerns

The only device approved in the United States for use during such robotic procedures is the da Vinci Surgical System, which has been increasingly used in recent years at hospitals throughout the United States amid aggressive marketing by the device manufacturer, Intuitive Surgical.

The da Vinci robot is remotely controlled by a surgeon looking at a virtual reality representation of the patient’s internal organs and manipulating its four metal arms with hand and foot controls. Robotic surgery has been promoted as providing a less invasive procedure, which reduces recovery time. However, concerns have surfaced within the medical community about the potential risks and increased costs, without any apparent long-term benefits for the patient.

Last month, the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine issued an advisory, raising concerns about a lack of training, risks, and patient education involving robotic surgery. The board urged hospitals to take a more careful look at the risks associated with robotic surgery. The board also called for better patient selection criteria and improved training for surgeons conducting robotic surgery.

Another recent report, by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), recommended against robotic hysterectomy surgery, indicating that there is a lack of evidence showing any benefit to patients compared to other means of doing a hysterectomy, yet there are increased costs and a serious risk of complications.

In January, the FDA sent a survey to doctors asking them to detail their experiences and any problems following da Vinci robotic surgery. Doctors were asked to list side effects and complications that have arisen, to provide information about training in the use of the robot and about which procedures seem most and least suited for robotic surgery.

Intuitive Surgical also faces a number of da Vinci robotic surgery lawsuits filed on behalf of individuals who allege the device was defectively designed and sold without adequate warnings or instructions. According to allegations raised in the complaints, plaintiffs have indicated that they or a loved one suffered burns, tears and other internal injuries that surfaced following a da Vinci robotic procedure.

24 Comments

  • CinderellaDecember 25, 2022 at 12:36 pm

    I have a special place in my heart for each and everyone of you. I had robotic surgery Dec.7th,2021, it is now Dec.25th.2022, I still have severe pain in my right and left knees. The veins in my right leg have been swollen since surgery. When I got out of surgery the pain in my right leg, I could barely walk, still today my leg is hot, swollen, and I can barely get out of bed because I know I am g[Show More]I have a special place in my heart for each and everyone of you. I had robotic surgery Dec.7th,2021, it is now Dec.25th.2022, I still have severe pain in my right and left knees. The veins in my right leg have been swollen since surgery. When I got out of surgery the pain in my right leg, I could barely walk, still today my leg is hot, swollen, and I can barely get out of bed because I know I am going to have pain, it takes a few minutes for the pain to subside, my veins are still swollen, hot and very painful. After cleaning house, or go grocery shopping my right leg swells twice the size of my left leg. I know for a fact this pain and swelling came from having robotic surgery...

  • RemilaMay 20, 2022 at 6:00 pm

    Had my left knee replaced March 3,2021 by robotics surgery. Surgeon said 4-6 wks recovery ( after surgery said 2-3 months recovery) & now next week will be 3 months of swelling & 24/7 pain. After 3 months therapy cannot bend my leg very much & cannot flatten my leg. Don’t do It. May end up getting a lawyer!

  • CandiMay 3, 2022 at 11:09 am

    My husband had robotic for a small hernia behind his belly button. His GP recommended the surgeon however this surgeon never saw him before the surgery, just talked with him by phone and never once mentioned the pros and cons about doing it robotically. This was close to 5 weeks ago and my husband has severe pain exactly where the three incisions were made on his side in order to get to the hern[Show More]My husband had robotic for a small hernia behind his belly button. His GP recommended the surgeon however this surgeon never saw him before the surgery, just talked with him by phone and never once mentioned the pros and cons about doing it robotically. This was close to 5 weeks ago and my husband has severe pain exactly where the three incisions were made on his side in order to get to the hernia area. Not one pain med works and he is suffering terribly. He is unable to have any type of normal day. The surgeon told him it would be about 2 weeks of recovery. Now it has been pushed back to June 1st but that won't happen considering the amount of pain he is experiencing. What the heck is wrong with the medically community and their continuous lack of communication. We believe there is muscle and nerve damage on his side. Had he been told that his side would be used for entrance he would not have agreed to this type of surgery.

  • ConnieMay 1, 2022 at 8:38 pm

    I had a robotic total hysterectomy January 18, 2022. I was never told this was a risk. When I got back in my room, my left leg literally "flopped"to the left when trying to get of bed. I started physical therapy on Feb 18 with no end date in near future. I can only do 2 leg raises (when lying on my back) over 2.5 months later after going to physical therapy 3 x a week.

  • DeniseFebruary 26, 2022 at 11:57 pm

    I had robotic surgery to remove a nodule from my lung 5 months ago. My left side and left half of my stomach is still numb, swollen, feels bloated, and I have a variety of pains in that area. I also have problems eating an entire meal and with constipation at times. My surgeon indicated it might be nerve damage that goes away quickly but I am still suffering. Just looking for help and relief.

  • CharlotteFebruary 4, 2022 at 3:28 am

    I had robotic surgery to remove my gallbladder. I ended up in the ER and admitted twice after being released. It was done on outpatient basis. I’ve never had so much pain in my entire life. It made my blood pressure go crazy. Never again.

  • DonnaApril 23, 2021 at 2:30 am

    I had robotic surgery for stage one day one cancer a year ago... I have pain under my ribs which I believe to be nerve damage . Some days the pain is debilitating other times it’s tingling.. If it doesn’t get better soon I will be looking into Alternative treatments. I don’t want to go on pain pills . Anyone else at all OK out there like me?

  • ThomasSeptember 14, 2020 at 2:08 am

    I had my prostate removed , because of cancer, in 2017 by the devinci robot. An ever since I had nerve damage to both hands and parts of my arm. I cannot feel my left hand at all and can feel half of my right hand, have been told by medical people the feeling should come back they just do not know when.

  • TraceyAugust 5, 2020 at 10:33 pm

    This took place back in 2016, I had a robotic hysterectomy to remove fibroid tumors, which had fused together with the bladder. After being released from surgery that day I was ambulance back to the hospital emergency room I had the worst pain in which the bleeding lasted up to April of 2017 and that's because it was frozen. To this day I continue to suffer from pain and tingling on the right side[Show More]This took place back in 2016, I had a robotic hysterectomy to remove fibroid tumors, which had fused together with the bladder. After being released from surgery that day I was ambulance back to the hospital emergency room I had the worst pain in which the bleeding lasted up to April of 2017 and that's because it was frozen. To this day I continue to suffer from pain and tingling on the right side of my body and sometimes I am unable to walk. Also, I have been through some tested but the doctors pretend it's a mystery to them but another medical provide I just saw for a different reason suggested that I may have nerve damage and advice me to get a nerve test done.

  • ShellJuly 9, 2020 at 7:32 am

    I had robotic surgery to remove ovarian cysts 14 months ago - I am still experiencing burning nerve pain on the tops of my thighs - Angry that no one bothered to mention the contraindications behind the use of the robot

  • SandraMarch 7, 2020 at 8:56 am

    Hello everyone, my prayers goes out to each and everyone of you. I also have now been in severe pain after robotic surgery. it has caused me hell, can barely walk, sit, sleep, situp, etc. I had surgery around 2007 and can not find any paper work regarding my surgery nor can the hospital find my records. i went to a gynecologist after complaining for these many years after having a csection. I w[Show More]Hello everyone, my prayers goes out to each and everyone of you. I also have now been in severe pain after robotic surgery. it has caused me hell, can barely walk, sit, sleep, situp, etc. I had surgery around 2007 and can not find any paper work regarding my surgery nor can the hospital find my records. i went to a gynecologist after complaining for these many years after having a csection. I was told by 3007 i needed a partial hysterectomy and that i was a candidate for robotic surgery because I did not have any fat in my stomach. After having the surgery and coming home the same day. It never appeared or felt like i had surgery, i had no pain until about two week after and this pain felt like my stomach was split open. i continously stated to my primary care physician that my stomach and groin area was open. They would not help me and continue to blame it on my stomach and back pain due to having surgery in 2001, and 2002 laminectomy. I continued having pain and all physicians continued to dismiss me, I guess they may have been thinking that I need their opiates and that was not the case. I never used any drugs......they continued to blame it on my sciatica, and pushed me away. I severed for years trying to find a physician to help me. Praying everyday until i went to several gynecologist and they said it was my sciatica and there was nothing they can do. after going back to this particular gynecologist , he told me that before i left his office that he was going to find out what was wrong with me. From 2006 -or 2007 until this day i am still in pain. but to sum everything much more quicker. he told me that my stomach was so cutup on the right inside, how did i get like that,,,I told him I had c-section in 1999 and in 2001 and 2002 i had spinal surgery without their permission, i signed for a biospy to be done. They wanted to do a biospy because by that time i was paralyzed after having a epidermal. The moral of the story is that i am still in so much pain and have different doctors now and they are stating they see son much damage in my right groin and leg area but feel that I have so much arthritis but do not recommend surgery at this point. The gynecologist did surgery and sew the area but asked again why was I so cut up in my right side of the hip;groin area. The surgery was in 2007 but i am finding out now about 2 years. can anyone help me, do i have a lawsuit, do anyone know of someone that can help me.

  • JoseJanuary 4, 2020 at 9:43 pm

    Three months since surgery and the pain is still there, was told by my doctor that it’s a pitch nerve most likely cause by robotic surgery to remove a cyst on the kidney.

  • StaciaNovember 28, 2019 at 5:25 pm

    I had a hernia revision mesh removal robotic and the surgeon struggled with the mesh for hours. The end result is massive scar tissue with nerves trapped in an area that leaves me unable to sit longer then 10 minutes. I feel hopeless. I have a substandard income and now I feel like I am going to loose everything. I want to warn anyone these robots are never the way to go.

  • ScherrieOctober 9, 2019 at 8:30 pm

    I had an ovary removed August 8, 2019, 4 days after surgery such burning and pain from where they had went in with the port and the doctor gave me a lidocane shot in the middle of 1 of the incisions which didn't work. I have been to several doctors getting no help. Now I have just started seeing a neurologist and he started doing exrays praying for some relief soon. I can't handle this pain in [Show More]I had an ovary removed August 8, 2019, 4 days after surgery such burning and pain from where they had went in with the port and the doctor gave me a lidocane shot in the middle of 1 of the incisions which didn't work. I have been to several doctors getting no help. Now I have just started seeing a neurologist and he started doing exrays praying for some relief soon. I can't handle this pain in my spine and stomach anymore.

  • EricSeptember 11, 2019 at 1:20 pm

    I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October of 2017 and had DiVinci robotic prostate removal December 14, 2017. My Gleason score was 4+3=7 and was told robotic removal was my best option. My doctor also told me that I would have no problems and in 2-3 weeks I would be running marathons. I was in great condition with no other health issues and was in extreme pain immediately after the surgery. [Show More]I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in October of 2017 and had DiVinci robotic prostate removal December 14, 2017. My Gleason score was 4+3=7 and was told robotic removal was my best option. My doctor also told me that I would have no problems and in 2-3 weeks I would be running marathons. I was in great condition with no other health issues and was in extreme pain immediately after the surgery. I was told I should not have this much pain from the surgery and was written of as gas. I have been in extreme severe chronic abdominal pain for 18 months, on pain meds and have seen several doctors and had 5 procedures that have done nothing except cost me $$. I have been in the ER 2X's when the pain got totally unbearable and have not quality of life at all. I have not been able to work the whole year (2019). I earn a substantial income and it is going down by the month. I am not getting any help from the doctor or hospital that did my surgery and they simply have proven they do not care! The doctor agrees he did this and it is a direct result from my surgery and I should not be dealing with this but offer no solutions. I need help legally and medically!! If I had it to do again, I would rather have cancer than the surgery!!!

  • BrendaSeptember 9, 2019 at 2:21 pm

    I had a hysterotomy (DiVinci) and as soon as I was out of the recovery room my right thigh had shooting pains and numbness which caused me more discomfort than the surgery. I am very disappointed that this possibility was not told to me, so I could choose for myself the type of surgery I wanted. I had no idea this could happen

  • VickiJuly 12, 2019 at 2:05 am

    Lisa, You sound like me. Would love to talk to you somehow??

  • LisaMarch 20, 2019 at 12:06 am

    I am having the same issues but no mesh. Did you ever find out what was wrong? Please help me.

  • LisaMarch 19, 2019 at 5:07 pm

    I have NO idea what is going on with my body? I have had a DaVinci hysterectomy in November and I am still STRUGGLING and NOT recovered. I had prior back surgeries and I SHOULD of never had my hysterectomy DaVinci style. I believe the upside down position for so long added an emense amount of pressure on my prior back surgeries. I literally can barely function. I have been to ever possible ph[Show More]I have NO idea what is going on with my body? I have had a DaVinci hysterectomy in November and I am still STRUGGLING and NOT recovered. I had prior back surgeries and I SHOULD of never had my hysterectomy DaVinci style. I believe the upside down position for so long added an emense amount of pressure on my prior back surgeries. I literally can barely function. I have been to ever possible physician for help and I feel like something is strangling my nerves. I can bearly eat as my colon spasms, I have debilitating pain down both legs and I cant even wear underwear with elastic or sit. I am ALWAYS in pain and when I have to deficate I flare up to the point that I can almost not breathe. All of the comforts of life have been stripped from me, eating, sitting (relaxing), sleeping (my body never stops vibrating). What is going on? I am currently being treated for prudendal nerve damage now and sciatica which I had back in 2009 but was corrected with my back surgery. This DaVinci hysterectomy ruined my life.

  • LisaFebruary 11, 2019 at 3:58 am

    I was diagnosed with purdenal nerve damage. It is debilitating after surgery. I fell in 2017 on black ice and my right foot hurt but after the surgery my entire body hurts and is on fire sling with being electrical. It's a mess!

  • MechelNovember 21, 2018 at 2:09 pm

    i has a Robotic Assisted Hysterectomy & It ripped out Half of my Mesh sling on 1 side of my bladder. Had 2 Mesh removal surgerys since the Hysterectomy.The last Mesh surgery Dr could not find Mesh on 1 side & been in pain since wit nerve damage.Was in surgery over 4hrs & recovery for over 4 hrs,with Nurses trying to get my agony pain under control,with strong pain meds every 15 mins.for over 4 hrs[Show More]i has a Robotic Assisted Hysterectomy & It ripped out Half of my Mesh sling on 1 side of my bladder. Had 2 Mesh removal surgerys since the Hysterectomy.The last Mesh surgery Dr could not find Mesh on 1 side & been in pain since wit nerve damage.Was in surgery over 4hrs & recovery for over 4 hrs,with Nurses trying to get my agony pain under control,with strong pain meds every 15 mins.for over 4 hrs. Grrr

  • SandraJune 12, 2018 at 9:49 am

    I am in constant pain from having a robotic assisted hysterectomy on Friday, 6/08/18. My legs (especially my knees and inner thighs), arms, fingers, and toes feel like they are burning and numb at the same time. I can't function!

  • JACQUELINEApril 18, 2016 at 10:03 pm

    I had nerve damage to both wrists and hands. I have become permanently disabled due to the extreme trauma. This was after a long surgery in a steep trendellenburg position while being operated o n by the di vinci robot.

  • MichelleOctober 9, 2014 at 5:39 pm

    I had a laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy using the power morcellator performed on 12/19/2012. The pathology report afterward showed I had adenomyosis. About 6 months post op I started having severe pain on my left side near my ovary. The pain comes on every three weeks and last about a week. I followed up with the surgeon who performed my hysterectomy. I had a ct scan done which came back [Show More]I had a laparoscopic supracervical hysterectomy using the power morcellator performed on 12/19/2012. The pathology report afterward showed I had adenomyosis. About 6 months post op I started having severe pain on my left side near my ovary. The pain comes on every three weeks and last about a week. I followed up with the surgeon who performed my hysterectomy. I had a ct scan done which came back normal. The doctor suggested I may have endometriosis or possibly nerve damage. The doctor then gave me a cortixone injection and had me follow up three weeks later. The injection didn't help and the doctor told me to just give it time. He told me that if I went in to have exploratory laparoscopic surgery then I would have a difficult recovery so I shouldn't even bother. I went to a new doctor for a second opinion and he just agreed with my surgeon and prescribed me naproxen and told me to follow up if I need anything. Well it's been six months since I've seen a doctor and I'm feeling worse. The pelvic pain and bloating is constant. I feel naseous every time I eat, and I'm rapidly losing weight. I fear going back to the doctor because I feel like my pain will just be dismissed again. The pain is constant and affecting my activities of daily living..

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