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Malfunction and failure of robotic systems during general surgical procedures



There has been recent interest in using robots for general surgical procedures. This shift in technique raises the issue of patient safety with automated instrumentation. Although the safety of robotics has been established for urologic procedures, there are scant data on its use in general surgical procedures. The aim of this study is to analyze the incidence of robotic malfunction and its consequences for general surgical procedures.


All robotic general surgical procedures performed at a tertiary center between 2008 and 2011 were reviewed from institutional review board (IRB)-approved prospective databases.


A total of 223 cases were done robotically, including 102 endocrine, 83 hepatopancreaticobiliary, 17 upper gastrointestinal, and 21 lower gastrointestinal colorectal procedures. There were 10 cases of robotic malfunction (4.5 %). These failures were related to robotic instruments (n = 4), optical system (n = 3), robotic arms (n = 2), and robotic console (n = 1). None of these failures led to adverse patient consequences or conversion to open. Six (2.7 %) cases were converted to open due to bleeding (n = 3), difficult dissection plane (n = 1), invasion of tumor to surrounding structures (n = 1), and intolerance of pneumoperitoneum due to CO2 retention (n = 1). There was no mortality, and morbidity was 1 % (n = 2).


To our knowledge, this is the largest North American report to date on robotic general surgical procedures. Our results show that robotic malfunction occurs in a minority of cases, with no adverse consequences. We believe that awareness of these failures and knowing how to troubleshoot are important to maintain the efficiency of these procedures.

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Authors Orhan Agcaoglu, Shamil Aliyev, Halit Eren Taskin, Sricharan Chalikonda, Matthew Walsh, Meagan M. Costedio, Matthew Kroh, Tomasz Rogula, Bipan Chand, Emre Gorgun, Allan Siperstein, and Eren Berber have no conflicts of interest or financial ties to disclose.

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Correspondence to Eren Berber.

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Agcaoglu, O., Aliyev, S., Taskin, H.E. et al. Malfunction and failure of robotic systems during general surgical procedures. Surg Endosc 26, 3580–3583 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00464-012-2370-9

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  • Robotics
  • Malfunction
  • Failure
  • General surgery