Robotic technology helps with hysterectomies

November 17, 2008 6:48:00 PM PST
A technology that revolutionized surgeries for men, is now doing the same for women for gynecological procedures. Surgeons are discovering that robotic surgery has such a delicate touch, that it cuts recovery time from months to weeks.

Watching DeLisa Branch-Nealy do the family laundry, it's hard to imagine that days ago, she's barely walked out of a surgery that once kept women in recovery for weeks.

"I feel really good," said Branch-Nealy.

And that may have something to do with the fact that her hysterectomy was performed, at least in part, by a robot.

Technicians set up the daVici Surgery System at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco. While Doctor Leslie Kardos helps prep DeLisa on the table, she won't stay by her side for long.

Instead, she weaves her slight frame into a control center that's part 'Edward Scissorhands,' part 'Phantom of the Opera.'

Using a collection of pedals and finger tip controllers, Dr. Kardos will guide no fewer than three robotic scalpels, around a delicate maze.

"We're dealing with three-dimensional organs. You're dealing with a uterus which is often enlarged. So in this case the daVinci instruments because they act like hands you can push something aside, you can reach down," said Dr. Kardos.

Until recently, the daVinci was typically used for male conditions, like prostate surgeries.

"The beauty with the robotics is that it is all magnified," said Dr. Kardos.

But Dr. Kardos says the combination of laparoscopic instruments inserted through the stomach, and the precision control has made it a increasingly popular tool for gynecological procedures.

She says that helps minimize tissue damage. And working from a virtual vacuum, she's able to dissect and remove DeLisa's uterus through the laparoscopic tube in about an hour -- avoiding the trauma that comes with an open surgery.

"In an open procedure, we are dealing with an incision about five inches. Even with pain pumps and being delicate it's still a major incision. People are usually still in the hospital three to four days," said Dr. Kardos.

DeLisa, stayed overnight, but was home the next day. She is looking forward to an upcoming performance with her African dance troop. That is a physical challenge that might have been months away with traditional surgery.

"I'm hoping to get back dancing by the end of November," said Branch-Nealy.

Because of its precision, Dr. Kardos says the daVinci can perform common procedures in the uterus, such as removing fibroids, without damaging surrounding tissue -- which is many cases, allows a woman to preserve her fertility even after the surgery.


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