INTRODUCTION: Robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy (RLRP) is playing an increasing role in the surgical management of prostate cancer. The benefits of minimally invasive surgery, enhanced surgeon familiarity with the instrumentation, and increased patient demand has led to the popularity of this surgical technique. There are, however, shortcomings specifically associated with this technology. Notably, instrumentation failure associated with robotic procedures represents a new and unique problem in urological surgery. We examine the rate of mechanical failure of the da Vinci robotic system and its impact on our prostate cancer program.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: We reviewed our prospective, institutional review board-approved database of the first 350 RLRP procedures that were scheduled for surgery at our institution. We identified all cases in which mechanical failure of the da Vinci robotic system resulted in surgery being cancelled, postponed, or converted to a conventional laparoscopic or an open radical prostatectomy.
RESULTS: Nine of the 350 (2.6%) scheduled RLRPs were unable to be completed robotically secondary to device malfunction. Six of the malfunctions were detected prior to anesthesia induction and surgery was rescheduled. Three other malfunctions occurred intraoperatively and were converted either to a conventional laparoscopic (1 case) or an open surgical approach (2 cases). The etiology of the malfunctions included the following: set-up joint malfunction (2), arm malfunction (2), power error (1), monocular monitor loss (1), camera malfunction (1), metal fatigue/ break of surgeon's console hand piece (1) and software incompatibility (1).
CONCLUSIONS: Although uncommon, malfunction of the da Vinci robotic system does occur and may lead to psychological, financial, and logistical burdens for patients, physicians, and hospitals. Patients should be carefully counseled preoperatively regarding the possibility of robotic mechanical failure.