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River Falls Area Hospital

Robotic surgery for gynecologic conditions

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Robotic surgery for gynecologic conditions

Many women will experience problems affecting their uterus (womb) or other reproductive organs at some point in their lives. In fact, one in three women in the United States will have surgery to treat uterine disorders before she turns 60 — including fibroid tumors, endometriosis, prolapse and gynecologic cancer. These problems can cause chronic pain, excessive bleeding, infertility or other disabling conditions.

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A uterine fibroid is a common non-cancerous tumor that develops within the uterus, the hollow, muscular organ that holds and feeds a fertilized egg. Fibroids may grow as a single tumor or in clusters. They often increase in size and frequency with age, but then shrink in size after menopause. While not all women with fibroids experience symptoms, common problems can include excessive menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain and infertility.

More on fibroids.

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Endometriosis is the noncancerous growth of the uterine lining. It occurs when the tissue that normally lines the uterus grows in other places in the pelvic cavity causing pain, irregular bleeding and infertility.

More on endometriosis.

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Uterine prolapse

Uterine prolapse occurs when the muscles and connective tissues that hold pelvic organs in place become weakened. The uterus may fall or slip from its usual position into the vaginal canal, causing discomfort, pressure and pain.

More on uterine prolapse.

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Gynecologic cancer

Gynecologic cancer can occur in the ovaries, cervix, uterus or another part of the reproductive system. The risk of getting gynecologic cancer increases as women age. With regular checkups and early detection, many gynecologic cancers can be diagnosed and treated before they become life threatening.

More on gynecologic cancer.

If it is not possible to correct a gynecologic condition with medication or other methods, doctors traditionally recommend either open abdominal surgery or laparoscopic surgery. However, da Vinci® robotic surgery is fast becoming the preferred option for treating many gynecologic conditions. In some cases, for example when a woman has dense scarring from previous operations, robotic surgery is the only alternative to open surgery.

Physicians at River Falls Area Hospital trained to perform robotic surgery for obstetrics and gynecologic conditions

Kevin Hallman, MD

The procedure

da Vinci robotic surgery system

During robotic surgery, the surgeon sits at a console a few feet from the patient and another member of the surgical staff stands at the operating table with four, jointed robotic arms overhead. The surgeon makes several small incisions, and inserts a tiny camera and miniature surgical instruments through the openings.

The camera provides a detailed view of the pelvic cavity on a color monitor, while the robotic arms work with great precision at the surgeon’s command. The surgeon controls every delicate movement of the micro-instruments at all times.

Using this advanced technology, surgeons can now handle a wider range of cases, and carry out even the most complex procedures with improved accuracy and very little damage to surrounding tissue.

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A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of the uterus. U.S. doctors perform about 600,000 hysterectomies every year; at least one third of these operations are to remove fibroids. Sometimes a hysterectomy can be performed through the vagina. However, when the uterus is enlarged — for example, from fibroids or cancer — an abdominal hysterectomy is recommended. In some cases, doctors also remove the ovaries because the hormones they release may be contributing to the condition.

More on hysterectomy.

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A myomectomy is the surgical removal of uterine fibroids. This procedure preserves the uterus and is a common alternative to a hysterectomy for women who may want to become pregnant in the future. A traditional myomectomy is performed through a large abdominal incision. After removing each fibroid, the surgeon carefully repairs the uterus to minimize potential bleeding, infection and scarring. Proper repair of the uterus is critical to reduce the risk of uterine rupture during pregnancy. About 65,000 myomectomies are performed each year in the United States.

More on uterine myomectomy.

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Sacrocolpopexy is a surgical procedure used to correct uterine prolapse or vaginal vault prolapse – a condition that causes these pelvic organs to fall or slip out of place. The surgeon uses a synthetic surgical mesh to hold the vagina and uterus in the correct position and provide long-term support. An estimated 200,000 sacrocolpopexies are performed in the United States each year. The vast majority take place through an open incision.

Robotic surgery vs. traditional surgery

For many years, doctors have successfully treated gynecologic conditions with surgery. Depending on the nature of the problem, a woman may need a hysterectomy, a myomectomy or sacrocolpopexy. Most of these operations are performed using open abdominal surgery, which typically requires a 6- to 12-inch incision in the abdomen to reach the uterus and surrounding area. Women who undergo traditional open surgery often experience significant pain and blood loss, and may need many weeks to recover from the procedure.

You might think robotic surgery only happens in science fiction movies, but this state-of-the-art technology is no longer a thing of the future. It is quickly becoming the preferred option for treating many gynecologic conditions. The da Vinci system allows surgeons to perform minimally invasive surgery with more precision than ever before.

What are the benefits of robotic surgery

Although every patient and every surgery is unique, robotic surgery offers important advantages for patients and their doctors. Because trained surgeons can operate with greater precision using robotic surgery, it is considered the best surgical option for many conditions.

Our experienced surgeons have used the da Vinci robot to perform more than 1,000 successful operations. Talk to your doctor to find out whether robotic surgery is right for you.

Benefits include:

  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Less pain and scarring
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less blood loss and fewer transfusions
  • Faster recovery
  • Quicker return to normal activities