June 18, 2013 — A 65 year-old man who underwent a laparoscopic prostatectomy with the Da Vinci Surgical Robot has allegedly suffered “severe nerve damage,” according to a report published by the Expert Institute.
In the United States, more than 85% of prostate surgeries are performed with a robot. As the popularity of robot surgery has increased, so has concern about the risk of nerve damage, burns, electrocutions, and surgeon errors due to inadequate training.
The case report involved a man who underwent surgery to remove his prostate gland (prostatectomy). He was placed in the lithotomy position with his arms tucked at his side. The surgical staff secured the patient with braces around the patient’s head and shoulders and also placed his legs in stirrups. Then, they tipped the patient backward into the Trendelenburg position. This position places a patient’s legs at a higher elevation than the head.
During the procedure, the surgeon had problems locating the vas deferens and seminal vesicles for a “significant amount of time.” Another surgeon was called in to assist. By the time the procedure was complete, the patient had been in the Trendelenburg position for more than 6 hours.
Nursing staff discovered that the man’s head and face were severely swollen. He also had strap marks and blisters on his arms due to a blood pressure cuff that was left on his arm. After the patient complained of numbness and tingling, doctors performed a neurological exam and found that he had severe nerve damage caused by a compression injury during the robotic prostatectomy.
Although the patient underwent several surgeries, he received only minimal improvement to the numbness and tingling sensations in his arms and hands. He also suffers from aching in his arms.
This injury report adds to the growing concern about a lack of training for surgeons who use the Da Vinci robot for prostate surgery. In April, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) noticed a 34% spike in the number of adverse event reports associated with the Da Vinci Surgical System between 2011 and 2012. The FDA has surveyed surgeons about their experience with the technology. Some of the reports involved severe patient injuries or deaths caused by equipment malfunction or surgeon error.