November 17, 2018

What is it like to have robotic assisted gynecologic surgery- a physician’s perspective

As an ob/gyn physician, the last thing I wanted to do was have gynecologic surgery on myself. Much to my dismay, I discovered that my uterus was hosting several large fibroid tumors. Since I didn’t have any of the typical symptoms of heavy or painful periods, my first instinct was to ignore them. However, given that my uterus was the size of a 4-5 month pregnancy, it became apparent that the fibroids were going to have to be removed before they got larger or grew enough tumor friends that a minimally invasive surgery was not an option.

Although many women in their 40s would jump at the opportunity to have a hysterectomy and be done with periods forever, I was relatively fond of my uterus. It had carried three lovely kids, and I was hoping to go through life with as many of my parts intact as possible. For this reason, and the distant dream of having a little girl to add to my brood of boys, I chose to have a myomectomy, a surgery to remove just the fibroids and preserve my uterus. Additionally,  because I am self employed and do not like to spend more than a few days away from my patients, I chose to have the surgery done laparoscopically. My surgeon would use the da Vinci robot to remove my fibroids through 4 tiny incisions and I would return to work in a week.

There is a joke among medical personnel that our medical issues always turn out to be more complicated than anticipated and I was no exception. My surgery- supposedly to remove 5 fibroids in 4 hours- turned out to be a 6 hour procedure to remove 14 tumors. Even so, my gifted surgeon did this through the promised 4 tiny incisions and I was walking unassisted to the restroom within a few hours postop. I was off the IV, drinking fluids and on just a few pain pills that first night and home the next day.  My second day home, I went for a 25 minute walk outside and was taking over the counter Advil for pain.

In earlier times, a surgery like the one I had would have meant 6 weeks out of commission and a difficult recovery. I am fortunate that the latest technology has allowed me to return to activity within days. At this rate, I plan to be running and lifting weights by next week. This may not be a “typical” recovery, but it is possible. In conclusion, minimally invasive surgery, like the one I had, is possible and available to appropriate candidates. Although I am not currently performing the robotic procedures, my office partner, Dr. Lori Carrillo and my own surgeon, infertility specialist, Dr. Millie Behera, are available for consulation.

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