The decision to have a hysterectomy is never easy. It’s often the best and most effective treatment solution for many potentially debilitating conditions, including aggressive endometriosis, painfully large fibroids, and cancer. But it’s major surgery.
In the past, it could take months to recover from a hysterectomy due to the many muscles and other soft tissue structures affected during the procedure. And you were left with a large abdominal scar as a constant reminder of what you’d undergone.
Surgeons understand the fears their patients face when contemplating a hysterectomy. Their compassion leads them to find ways to reduce the physical and psychological trauma often associated with this procedure.
That’s why the minimally invasive, robotic-assisted techniques made possible with recent medical advances have been met with great enthusiasm in the surgical community. Skill still matters, however, because it’s a person and not a robot performing the surgery.
Dr. Darin Swainston is a gynecological specialist who is recognized across the United States for his surgical expertise. He supports and encourages the use of robotic-assisted surgery whenever possible and can even provide a single-incision hysterectomy that keeps the small scar in your belly button and out of sight. He’s happy to explain the advantages of this state-of-the-art technique.
What is robotic-assisted hysterectomy?
A robotic-assisted hysterectomy uses advanced computer technology and innovative robotics to enhance a surgeon’s capabilities and greatly reduce the trauma to surrounding tissue that occurs with other surgical techniques.
A traditional or “open” abdominal hysterectomy, for instance, requires a long incision through layers of skin, muscle, and other tissue to fully expose the uterus and other reproductive organs.
With the robotic-assisted method, your surgeon needs only two or three small incisions, sometimes only one, to reach the surgical area.
Tiny, specialized instruments, including a miniature camera, are inserted through the incisions and used to perform the hysterectomy.
How is robotic-assisted surgery different than traditional laparoscopic surgery?
The robotic-assisted technique may seem similar to other minimally invasive techniques, such as a traditional laparoscopic hysterectomy, but the highly advanced equipment takes laparoscopy to the next level, and above.
The advances include a high-definition, 3D, magnified view of the surgical site as well as assistive computer technology that translates a surgeon’s already precise hand movements into smaller, more exact cuts with the tiny surgical instruments. Improved surgical precision means less risk to the patient.
It’s important to note that the “robot” is never in charge. Rather, the entire procedure is controlled entirely by your surgeon, who uses the technology to provide you with a potentially improved surgical outcome that includes reduced risks of complications -- and much less scarring.
What are the other benefits of robotic-assisted hysterectomy?
Along with reduced scarring, that can benefit your psychological well-being, a robotic-assisted hysterectomy may:
- Reduce the potential for blood loss during surgery and lessen your risk of requiring a transfusion
- Decrease the risks of complications encountered after surgery, such as infection
- Result in a shorter hospital stay
- Decrease your level of postoperative pain
- Allow for a speedier recovery overall
What is a single-incision hysterectomy?
This type of robotic-assisted hysterectomy involves just one incision rather than the three normally used for traditional laparoscopic and robotic-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy. The single-incision method uses an incision made in your belly button to both insert the surgical instruments and camera and remove the affected organs.
There is a slight risk of developing an umbilical hernia after this procedure, but many women opt for it due to the nearly invisible surgical scar. It’s also an outpatient surgery, which means you’ll spend a day under close monitoring and observation following the surgery but typically won’t have to face an overnight hospital stay.