For all the advanced features for the da Vinci surgical system it is surprisingly reliable.
Dr Ahlering at University of California Irvine wrote a review article for the AUA Update series where he commented that his first 200 cases had 5 problems. 4 cases were delayed because of software problems that were easily fixed. There was one case that involved a power outage when the backup battery was not charged and he finished the case laparoscopically.
I have performed 62 robotic operations with only 2 problems.
One day we arrived at the operation and had a wire to our 4th arm severed.
We did the operation with only 3 arms the way lots of places that don’t have the 4 arm machine do it, with 3 arms- a camera and 2 instruments.
Our other problem was a faulty connection between the left arm and the instrument. We had to put it on and off a few times before it would engage. It delayed us a few minutes. If it didn’t engage, we would have redocked the robot with only 3 arms.
If I had a complete failure, I would have the option of finishing the operation laparoscopically or open. It would depend on the patients anatomy and if I thought I could do it laparoscopically or open better. I think this would be a rare event.
Domenico Savatta, M.D.