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Robotic surgery offers improved option for hysterectomies

By Jed Boal | Posted - Mar. 17, 2010 at 6:50 p.m.


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SALT LAKE CITY -- Women in Utah facing a hysterectomy now have an improved option, thanks to a new generation of robotic technology. Rather than weeks of recovery time, most women can go home the same day of the surgery.

The third-generation da Vinci Surgical System lets doctors at Salt Lake Regional Medical Center change the way they perform hysterectomies. It uses better 3-D vision, and a wider range of movement, so the surgeon has even greater ability to work the robotic arms.

The hysterectomy is the second most common medical procedure for women in the United States, and one-third of all women will have one by age 60.

Dr. John Oglesby gave Mindy Smolka a hysterectomy two months ago at Salt Lake Regional Medical Center. When she first considered the surgery, as you might expect, she was apprehensive about pain, and a recovery that would make her life difficult.

Smolka suffered severe pain from endometriosis. She did some research and went with Oglesby's recommendation to get the procedure done with da Vinci.

"I knew I was done having children," Smolka said, "so this was the best option for me."

When she first heard of the da Vinci system, she thought it sounded very futuristic. But she liked the idea of getting it done quickly.

Are you a candidate for da Vinci Surgery?
My symptom(s) or condition(s) are:
• Pelvic Pain
• Abnormal Bleeding
• Uterine Fibroids
• Endometriosis
• Falling Uterus or Bladder (Prolapse)
• Infertility
• Cancer
• Other/Not Sure
Source: da Vinci Surgery
*Only you and your doctor can decide whether da Vinci Surgery may be right for you.

"I wanted to go ahead and get the surgery and feel better so I could be a good mom to the kids I have," Smolka said.

For most women, the da Vinci procedure offers benefits over traditional surgical methods: a shorter hospital stay, less blood loss, less pain and quicker recovery.

Oglesby performed the surgery on Smolka one afternoon after putting her out with an anesthetic. She was surprised by how simple it turned out to be.

"They actually told me I could go home that night," she said with a laugh. "But with little ones at home, I wanted to stay and get pampered, so I went home the next morning."

She was back at work in a week, and exercising a couple weeks later.

According to Oglesby, 70 percent of all hysterectomies in Utah are still performed abdominally. He said nearly all of those could be performed with the da Vinci.

"In other parts of the country, this is now quickly becoming one of the most common options people choose," Oglesby said.

For a traditional open hysterectomy, a doctor makes a four- to six-inch incision. The da Vinci uses several one- to two-centimeter incisions.

"We have our main access port through our camera," Oglesby said. "We then have two secondary ports; we also have a third arm we can use. Through each of those ports, we're able to do our operation in a quicker, more efficient manner."

Salt Lake Regional is the only facility in the valley using da Vinci for GYN procedures, but in the future the doctor says it will be commonplace.

"All kinds of surgeries," Ogleby said. "We'll still have to deliver babies the other way, but for everything else."

Oglesby said the da Vinci robot does not change the procedure, rather it lets the team perform the hysterectomy faster, more efficiently and better.

As far as Smolka is concerned, she's back to living her life, even if it includes her least favorite chores.

"The worst part is that I have to vacuum again, and have to work out," she said. "But it's been really good. I feel very, very healthy and normal."

This method may not not be the best option for all patients. Oglesby says a patient should talk with her doctor about her options.

E-mail: jboal@ksl.com

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Jed Boal

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