Hysterectomy for the Modern Woman

To live in the modern age is exciting indeed!   Who would have thought twenty years ago that everyone would be walking around carrying their own little hand-held computers?  Or that the space shuttle would be obsolete and that civilian space travel could be a reality?  Nowhere have we seen as many technological advances as in the medical field, particularly in the realm of laparoscopic surgery.

In contrast to traditional surgery which involves one large incision, laparoscopic surgery uses 3-5 very small incisions to access the inside of the body.  The advantages to this approach are: 1) Easier recovery from surgery because small incisions are less painful than large ones and because the internal organs don’t get moved around as much.  2) Less chance of an infection because the inside of the body does not get as exposed to open air as it would with regular surgery.  3) Less blood loss because there is less cutting.

So here is how it works.  Through one incision the “scope” is passed.  The scope is a long thin tube with a tiny camera and light on the end that sends pictures of the inside of the body to a TV screen.  The surgical tools go through the other incisions.  The tools are clamps, scissors, and stitching devices that the surgeon controls from outside the body.  Thanks to these sophisticated tools surgeons can now perform many operations laparoscopically which used to require a large incision.  In my field, gynecology, examples of surgeries that are now commonly performed laparoscopically include removal of ovaries and ovarian cysts, treatment of scar tissue, treatment of endometriosis, and hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).

Remember when women used to stay in the hospital for a week after a hysterectomy?  Before laparoscopy was invented, if a woman needed her uterus removed the best option was (and still is) to have it removed through the vagina without making any incisions on the abdomen.  However, if the uterus was too large or there was scar tissue inside, the surgeon would need to make a traditional large incision on the abdomen to remove it.  With laparoscopy a large incision can usually be avoided even if there is an enlarged uterus or scar tissue inside.  After a laparoscopic hysterectomy most women go home from the hospital 6-24 hours after surgery and many are able to return to work within 2-3 weeks.

One type of laparoscopic hysterectomy involves the aid of a surgical robot.  “The robot” is a computer-controlled device that holds the surgical tools while the surgeon controls the robot from a console near the patient.  Women who undergo a “robot hysterectomy” enjoy the same benefits as those who undergo non-robotic laparoscopic hysterectomy.

At The Jackson Clinic 90% of hysterectomies are performed without making the traditional abdominal incision, and all of the gynecologists are very experienced laparoscopic surgeons.  Nobody wants to be told they need an operation, but if you are faced with surgery and your surgeon recommends an abdominal incision, ask if laparoscopy is an option.  If the answer is yes, you will be very glad you live in the 21st century!