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Robotic surgery: Quick recovery and less pain

  • Despite having severe endometriosis for years, Tara Ulmaniac, 39, was hesitant to undergo surgery to treat the condition.

    Endometriosis is a painful disorder in which tissue from the uterus grows outside of the uterus and affects the ovaries, bladder and other pelvic organs.

    Ten years ago, Ulmaniac had surgery to remove the excess tissue, and she had no desire to endure the pain and long recovery associated with additional pelvic surgery.

    But when a family member recently had a robot-assisted hysterectomy and was up and around within a week, Ulmaniac knew it was time to reconsider.

    She consulted with Catherine Casey, MD, a gynecologic surgeon with US Oncology who has been using the da Vinci® Surgical System at Abbott Northwestern Hospital since 2006. This technology allows surgeons to make smaller incisions and enhances surgical precision, giving patients the benefit of a quicker recovery.

    Robot-assisted surgery can be used in a variety of gynecologic procedures that treat benign and cancer-related conditions. At Abbott Northwestern, it is also used to treat throat, gallbladder, kidney, liver, head and neck, prostate and other urologic conditions.

    Ulmaniac had surgery on a Friday, was discharged from the hospital on Saturday and was able to return to work by Tuesday.

    "The last time I had surgery, I was out of work for eight weeks," said Ulmaniac, who is an attorney in private practice.

    Ulmaniac's experience mirrors that of many of Casey's patients and is also consistent with research on the use of robotic surgery. Studies have shown that patients who have robot-assisted hysterectomies have shorter hospital stays and faster recoveries than those who have traditional open surgery.

    The overall complication rate is decreased, and patients tend to have much less pain after surgery.

    "After we get patients through the acute phase of waking up after surgery, most do fine with just an over-the-counter pain medicine," said Casey.

    "Maybe I have a higher pain threshold than some, but this was just a miracle to me," said Ulmaniac. "I would have done this long ago had I known."