Hysterectomies are the second most-common surgery performed on women, and for a quicker recovery, many women are choosing a robot-assisted surgery that shrinks the scar size and recovery time.
Each year there are 600,000 hysterectomies performed in the United States. It is often the recommended treatment for numerous reproductive issues when more conservative treatments, such as medications, have been unsuccessful.
“So a hysterectomy is a surgical procedure where we remove the uterus," said Coastal Bend Women’s Center Obstetrics/Gynecology at Corpus Christi Medical Center Dr. Rolando Vega. "It could be a total hysterectomy, where you remove the uterus and the cervix, or just a partial hysterectomy, leaving the cervix in place.”
If you need a hysterectomy, your doctor might recommend robot-assisted (robotic) surgery.
“So patients that can eventually need a hysterectomy are patients that might have symptoms such as excessive vaginal bleeding or pelvic pain," he said. "I would say those are the most common symptoms.”
Thanks to recent improvements in robotic surgery technology, hysterectomies can be completed through a one-inch incision hidden in the belly button.
“The uses of the robot, for example, in our hospital, I will say that 95 percent of all the hysterectomies are done with the robot," Vega siad. "So it is very common here.”
While the sound of robotic technology can be unsettling to some, this innovative method provides a more precise procedure. The precise technology results in smaller incisions and a quicker recovery for patients.
“When a patient has a hysterectomy done with the robot, the patient stays here in the hospital only one night, and she can go back to work as quickly (in) as one week," he said. "Before, say an abdominal hysterectomy, the recovery can take up to 6 weeks.”
Dr. Vega says you should see your doctor if you have symptoms such as excessive vaginal bleeding, pelvic pain, or if you have already been diagnosed with excessive vaginal bleeding and been treated with other modes of treatment.
During surgery, your surgeon sits at a console next to you and operates using tiny instruments. Your doctor performs the hysterectomy with instruments that are passed through small abdominal cuts.
A camera provides a high-definition, 3D magnified view inside your body. Every hand movement your surgeon makes is translated by the robotic assisted surgical system in real time to bend and rotate the instruments with precision.
Doctors perform hysterectomies to treat conditions such as:
• Uterine fibroids
• Cancer or precancer of the uterus, cervix or ovaries
• Uterine prolapse
• Abnormal vaginal bleeding
• Pelvic pain
During the procedure:
You'll lie on your back, in a position similar to the one you're in for a papsmear test. You might have a urinary catheter inserted to empty your bladder.
A member of your surgical team will clean the surgical area with a sterile solution before surgery. During the procedure:
• Your surgeon will use control devices to direct the surgical instruments that remove your uterus.
• Your surgeon might also remove one or both ovaries and your fallopian tubes, depending on your condition.
• An assistant at the operating table repositions instruments, adds or removes surgical devices, and provides other support to your surgeon as needed.
• Members of the anesthesia team continually monitor your condition and comfort.
After a hysterectomy, a woman will no longer have periods or be able to get pregnant.
If you had your ovaries removed but hadn't reached menopause, you'll begin menopause immediately after surgery. You might have symptoms such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes and night sweats.
Your doctor can recommend medications for these symptoms. He or she might recommend hormone replacement even if you don't have symptoms.
If your ovaries weren't removed during surgery — and you still had periods before your surgery — your ovaries continue producing hormones and eggs until you reach natural menopause.