A doctor guides robotic arms to do urologic surgery. This is done through several tiny keyhole incisions.
From top to bottom: Kidneys, ureters, bladder, prostate, and urethra.
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Reasons for Procedure
Examples of urologic surgeries that have been successfully done using this technique include:
- Prostatectomy —to remove part or all of a prostate gland found to contain prostate cancer
- Pyeloplasty —to repair an abnormality of the kidney and nearby ureter, which is a tube that leads from the kidney to the bladder
- Cystectomy —to remove all or part of the bladder to treat bladder cancer
- Nephrectomy —to remove all or part of the kidney because of kidney cancer, kidney stones, or kidney disease
- Ureteral reimplantation—to disconnect and reinsert the ureter from the bladder to keep urine from flowing backwards from the bladder into the kidneys
- Procedures requiring fine dissection and stitching such as reconnection of the ureter
Compared to more traditional procedures, robotic-assisted surgery may result in:
- Less scarring
- Reduced recovery times
- Less risk of infection
- Less blood loss
- Reduced trauma to the body
- Shorter hospital stay
- Faster recovery
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like:
- Damage to nearby organs or structures
- Anesthesia-related problems
- The need to switch to traditional surgical methods such as traditional laparoscopic or open surgery
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
- Pre-existing heart or lung condition
- Increased age
- Excessive alcohol intake
- Use of certain medications
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.
What to Expect
Prior to Procedure
Depending on the reason for your surgery, your doctor may do the following:
- Physical exam
- Blood tests and urine tests
- Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
- Retrograde pyelogram
- X-ray of kidneys, ureter, bladder (KUB)
- CT scan
- MRI scan
Leading up to the procedure:
- Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to 1 week before the procedure.
- Take antibiotics if instructed.
- Follow a special diet if instructed.
- Shower the night before using antibacterial soap if instructed.
- Arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital. Also, have someone to help you at home.
- Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
General anesthesia will be used. It will block any pain and keep you asleep through the surgery.
Description of the Procedure
Several small keyhole incisions will be made in the abdomen. Carbon dioxide gas will be passed into the area. This will make it easier for internal structures to be viewed. A small camera, called an endoscope will be passed through one of the incisions. The camera will light, magnify, and project the structures onto a video screen. The camera will be attached to one of the robotic arms. The other arms will hold instruments for grasping, cutting, dissecting, and stitching. For example:
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While sitting at a console near the operating table, the doctor will use lenses to look at a magnified 3D image of the inside of the body. Another doctor will stay by the table to adjust the camera and tools. The robotic arms and tools will be guided by movements of the surgeon. After the tools are removed, stitches or staples will be used to close the surgical area.
How Long Will It Take?
About 2-4 hours, depending on the procedure
Will It Hurt?
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications. You may also feel discomfort from the gas used during the procedure. This can last up to 3 days.
Average Hospital Stay
About 1-2 days, depending on the procedure
To help with your recovery at home:
- Limit specific activities until you have recovered.
- Follow your doctor's instructions on how to clean the incision to prevent infection.
Total recovery usually takes about 3-6 weeks.
Call Your Doctor
Call your doctor if any of these occur:
- Catheter stops draining or falls out (if you had a catheter placed)
- Difficulty urinating
- Heavy bleeding or clots in the urine
- Pain, burning, urgency, or increased frequency of urination
- Signs of infection, including fever and chills
- Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from an incision site
- Abdominal swelling or pain
- Constipation, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
- Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
- New or unexpected symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for emergency medical services right away.
National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases
Urology Care Foundation
Canadian Urological Association
The Kidney Foundation of Canada
Bladder cancer—robot-assisted laparoscopic radical or simple cystectomy. The University of Chicago Medical Center website. Available at: http://www.ucurology.org/procedures/laparoscopic-surgery/__bladder-cancer--robot-assisted-laparoscopic-radical-or-simple-cystectomy. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Carmack AJ, Siddiq FM, Leveillee RJ. Novel use of da Vinci Robotic Surgical System: Removal of seminal vesicle cyst in previously dissected pelvis. Urology. 2006;67(1):199.
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Nerve-sparing robotic radical prostatectomy. Johns Hopkins Medicine website. Available at: http://urology.jhu.edu/MIS/roboticRRP.php. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Passerotti CC, Diamond DA, Borer JG, Eisner BH, Barrisford G, Nguyen HT. Robot-assisted laparoscopic ureteroureterostomy: description of technique. J Endourol. 2008;22(4):581-584.
Robotic dismembered pyeloplasty. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/17443-robotic-dismembered-pyeloplasty. Accessed March 27, 2018.
Last reviewed March 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Donald W. Buck II, MD Last Updated: 5/29/2014