Beaufort Memorial’s Living Well Blog brings health and wellness to Lowcountry living.

Closing the Chapter on Open Hysterectomies

Posted by Women's Health Team on Apr 3, 2017 1:16:39 PM

We’ve come a long way since the days when having a hysterectomy meant a three- or four-day hospital stay, weeks of painful recuperation and an unsightly scar across the belly.

Thanks to advanced robot technology, today the uterus can be surgically removed through one small incision in the navel, allowing patients to return home the same day or after just one night in the hospital. Instead of six weeks of recovery, most patients can get back to their normal routine in just a few days. 

Known as single-site surgery, the minimally invasive procedure also reduces blood loss and decreases the risk of developing an infection or hernia.

And because the incision is hidden in the belly button, it’s hard to tell you’ve even had an operation. With open surgery, you’re left with a large, five- to seven-inch scar across your lower abdomen or from your navel to your pubic bone.

Single-site hysterectomies are an improvement even over laparoscopic surgery, which requires the physician to make four or five small cuts in the abdomen. While the cosmetic outcome is much better than with open surgery, each incision increases the risk of complications. 

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Cindy Jamison

Given the choice, Hilton Head Island resident Cindy Jamison went with a single-site hysterectomy. One of the first women in the area to have the cutting-edge procedure, she couldn’t have been happier with the results.

“You can’t even see the scar,” the 52-year-old said.

More importantly, she went home hours after the surgery and was pain free by the following afternoon.

Approximately 600,000 hysterectomies are performed annually in the United States, making it the second most common surgery after cesarean delivery. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, one in three women has a hysterectomy by the age of 65. 

Prior to the early ‘90s, women needing a hysterectomy didn’t have an alternative but to undergo major abdominal surgery. Back then, Sun City resident Dorothea Krusky would have faced a long, painful recovery to remove the benign pelvic mass doctors found in her uterus. Instead, she spent one night in the hospital and was out shopping with her husband three days later.

“I had friends and family who had the traditional hysterectomy,” Krusky said. “They spent weeks and weeks recuperating and ended up with a long scar. I had virtually no pain and no scarring.”

Even after the introduction of laparoscopy, 65 percent of all hysterectomies were performed as open surgeries. It wasn’t until robot-assisted procedures were approved by the FDA in 2005 that the open hysterectomy rate began to drop.

Advancements in robotic technology have made it easier and safer for surgeons to remove the uterus laparoscopically. The latest version of the da Vinci Si Surgical System features high-definition, three-dimensional optics that has dramatically improved visualization of the operative field. The computer-controlled robot also is equipped with wristed instruments capable of rotating 365 degrees, offering a dexterity and range of motion far greater than the human hand. 

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Patricia A. Thompson, M.D.

“The software is amazing,” said Board Certified Gynecologist Pat Thompson, one of three Beaufort Memorial OB-GYNs using the computer-controlled robot to perform hysterectomies. “It would be like comparing the old DOS operating systems on personal computers with the technology of an iPad.”  

Not long after the third generation of the da Vinci was developed, single-site instrumentation was introduced. It is now being used at Beaufort Memorial to perform both hysterectomies and gallbladder surgery.

To learn more about this minimally invasive procedure at Beaufort Memorial, click here.