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If you need to speak with someone about your appointment, call 434.924.9333.


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Home > Patient Resources > Treatments & Therapy > Surgical Care > Robot-Assisted Urologic Procedures

Robot-Assisted Urologic Procedures


A doctor guides robotic arms to do urologic surgery. This is done through several tiny keyhole incisions.

Male Genital and Urinary Systems

A graphic depicting the male genital and urinary systems including the kidneys, ureter, bladder, prostate, and urethra
From top to bottom: Kidneys, ureter (tube), bladder, prostate, and urethra (the second tube).
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


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 suturing 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


Complications are rare, but no procedure is completely free of risk. If you are planning to have a robot-assisted urologic procedure, your doctor will review a list of possible complications, which may include:

  • Damage to nearby organs or structures
  • Infection
  • Bleeding
  • 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
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Excessive alcohol intake
  • Use of certain medications

Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the procedure.


Prior to Procedure

Depending on the reason for your surgery, your doctor may do the following:

  • Physical exam
  • Blood tests and urine tests
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG, EKG)
  • Intravenous pyelogram (IVP)
  • Retrograde pyelogram
  • Kidneys, ureter, bladder (KUB)
  • Ultrasound
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan
  • Cystoscopy

Leading up to the procedure:

  • Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medicines up to one week before the procedure, like:
    • Anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen
    • Blood thinners
    • Anti-platelet medications
  • 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 suturing; for example:

  • Forceps
  • Scissors
  • Dissectors
  • Scalpels

Instrument Used in Procedure

Surgical Tool
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

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 with joystick-like controls and foot pedals. After the tools are removed, sutures 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?

You will have pain and discomfort during recovery. You will be given pain medication. You may also feel bloated or have pain in your shoulder from the gas used during the procedure. This can last up to three days.

Average Hospital Stay

About 1-2 days, depending on the procedure

Post-procedure Care

When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery:

  • For some procedures, a urine catheter will be left in place for a while. You will be instructed on how to care for this.
  • If advised by your doctor, take antibiotics. You will need to avoid other medications. Talk to your doctor about which ones.
  • While resting, keep your legs elevated. Move your legs to avoid blood clots.
  • Wash the incisions with mild soap and water.
  • Ask your doctor about when it is safe to shower, bathe, or soak in water.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. This will help to clear your bladder.
  • Avoid constipation. Eat a high fiber diet. Drink plenty of water. Use stool softeners if necessary.
  • Avoid caffeinated beverages, alcohol, spicy foods, or other food or drink that might upset your stomach, intestines, or urinary tract.
  • Resume normal activities soon. This will promote healing.
  • Limit certain activities, such as driving, working, and doing strenuous exercise, until you have recovered.
  • Be sure to follow your doctor's instructions.

Total recovery usually takes about 3-6 weeks.


After you leave the hospital, contact your doctor if any of the following occurs:

  • 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
  • Cough, shortness of breath, or chest pain
  • Pain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legs
  • Other worrisome symptoms

In case of an emergency, call for medical help right away.


Treatment of prostate and genito-urinary (GU) cancers, including bladderkidney, penile, transitional cell, testicular and urethral cancer.

Research and Advanced Treatment

We have strong research efforts focused on finding the causes of prostate and bladder cancers, which can help with diagnosis and treatment. We’ve also identified a drug that dramatically reduces the spread of bladder cancer to the lungs.

Leading-Edge Care

UVA was one of the first hospitals to use the less invasive brachytherapy radiation approach, where “seeds” of radiation are implanted to treat prostate cancer. We were also one of the first hospitals in Virginia to use the da Vinci robotic surgical system for bladder cancer.

Our treatment options also include a less invasive surgery technique that destroys prostate or kidney tissue by freezing. Doctors use a needle to locate and freeze the cancer without a lot of damage to surrounding tissue.

Content was created using EBSCO’s Health Library. Edits to original content made by Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia. This information is not a substitute for professional medical advice.