• OptIng Robotic: New choices in surgery offer some patients a quicker road to recovery

Published on June 01, 2013

OptIng Robotic: New choices in surgery offer some patients a quicker road to recovery

Cynthia Harris struggled for 10 years with problems related to a uterine prolapse, a condition where the uterus slips out of place. This caused her to suffer from chronic bladder infections that required her to take antibiotics, but after a while the annoying problem would be back again.

Her urologist advised her that she needed a hysterectomy and repair work on her bladder to resolve the infections, but Cynthia felt anxious about having surgery.

“I had never had surgery for anything in my life,” said the 75-year-old Santa Barbara resident. “People told me that I would be laid up for at least six weeks after a surgery like that.”

She kept putting off surgery until one day she went to visit Dr. Ralph Quijano, OB/GYN, who told her that there was an alternative to ease her worries.

The surgery she needed could be done with the use of the da Vinci robotic surgical system, which can significantly reduce recovery time and pain.

Cynthia is among the growing number of women who chose to have gynecologic surgery using the da Vinci system at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital.

Within the past two years, gynecologic surgeries performed with da Vinci have grown dramatically. Six years ago, the majority of da Vinci procedures were performed on men with urologic issues. Over the past year, however, more than 70 percent of da Vinci surgeries at Cottage were done to treat women’s health issues.

“Dr. Quijano recommended the da Vinci surgery for me,” Cynthia recalls. “He thought it would be my best option.”

In the spring of 2012, Dr. Quijano performed a hysterectomy and sacrocolpopexy on Cynthia to treat her uterine prolapse.

Traditionally, prolapse surgery has been performed as open surgery which required the surgeon to make a long, horizontal incision in the lower abdomen to access the pelvic organs. Recovery after open surgery is often lengthy. Prolapse surgery can also be performed in a minimally invasive way, with small incisions, using laparoscopic surgery.

But traditional laparoscopy presents challenges because of the long-handled and rigid instruments needed for the procedure.

Dr. Ralph Quijano, who has been doing laparoscopic surgeries for 30 years, started performing da Vinci surgeries in 2011.

“With the da Vinci system, the surgeon has greater control than with laparoscopic surgery,” he explained. “The da Vinci also provides a three-dimensional view, so you get depth perception.”

Another big plus with da Vinci is that the robotic instrument “functions more like a human wrist in  that it can bend the same way,” he added.

All of these things make it easier to do the surgery with fewer complications.

This typically results in faster recovery and fewer days spent in the hospital. “With da Vinci, recovery after surgery is about 50 percent faster,” Dr. Quijano said.

Cynthia was a great example of the faster recovery time — she was released from the hospital the day after surgery.

“It was a snap,” she said. “It was so easy. I even went on a 10-day trip just two weeks after the surgery. I had no bleeding and no pain. I didn’t have to take anything like pain medication.”

Aside from a few small scars less than an inch long each, Cynthia noticed her belly button was “black and blue” after the surgery. It was a startling, but painless, reminder of her experience.

“I told my grandchildren I had a purple pansy belly button,” she laughed. “That bruising went away and the scars are mostly gone now. I would definitely recommend da Vinci surgery. I was thrilled with the results.” 

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