Robotic hysterectomy: Why more women are choosing this option
If your OB/GYN is recommending a hysterectomy, he or she might have suggested
you consider a robotic hysterectomy. It may sound futuristic, but it's not
science fiction. It's a minimally invasive surgery that more and more women are
choosing to have over a traditional hysterectomy, and for good reasons.
A hysterectomy is the surgical removal of your uterus or womb and sometimes the ovaries and fallopian tubes. Hysterectomy is used when other therapies don't work.
Reasons to consider a hysterectomy include:
- Cancer in the ovaries, cervix, or uterus
- Development of noncancerous growths (uterine fibroids) that can cause pain or bleeding
- Prolonged, heavy vaginal bleeding
- Uterine prolapse, or when the uterus falls into the vagina
For years, an abdominal hysterectomy was the only type available. This procedure involves making a large incision in the abdomen, and recovery could take six weeks or longer.
Today, traditional methods are still required in some cases, but minimally invasive surgery is preferred whenever possible because it offers many benefits and a better patient experience.
Finding a surgeon who uses the da Vinci® Surgical System to perform a robot-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy can be beneficial. This method involves making just one or more tiny incisions in the abdomen.
The surgeon inserts a laparoscope, which is a thin, flexible tube with tiny cameras attached to the end, through one of the incisions. The camera sends real-time images of the surgical site to a monitor in the operating room to guide the surgeon. Due to this aspect, the surgeon does not hover over the patient but sits at a console on the other side of the operating room.
Using special joysticks, the surgeon controls the robotic arms through another incision to perform the hysterectomy. When the surgeon moves, the robotic arms move, and because the robotic arms have wrists, they can twist and turn like a human hand. A robotic hysterectomy is extremely precise, which results in less impact to nearby tissues and organs.
Why robotic hysterectomy?
When appropriate, a robotic hysterectomy provides excellent results. Research shows robot-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy is often better than a non-robotic laparoscopic hysterectomy, and compared to open surgery, a robotic hysterectomy is much less painful. Patients who have this type of hysterectomy also tend to use fewer narcotic pain relievers, which reduces the risk of drug dependence and abuse.
After robotic surgery, you also get to head home faster. Within a few days, you should be clear to return to normal activities. A traditional abdominal hysterectomy takes around six weeks to fully recover. Robot-assisted hysterectomies take half as long.
Life after a robotic hysterectomy
Undergoing any type of hysterectomy is a life-changing experience. The most immediate impact is improved symptoms. If you were experiencing pain, bleeding, or other uncomfortable symptoms, a robotic hysterectomy will likely solve those problems. Additionally, a hysterectomy can also cause changes like:
● Menstruation. Without a uterus, you will no longer have a monthly period, which can be good news if you've experienced painful ones month after month. It also means you cannot have children.
● Menopause. If your ovaries are removed during your hysterectomy, menopause will happen soon and could cause more severe symptoms than you would normally experience during naturally occurring menopause. If your ovaries were not removed, menopause won't happen immediately but could still come sooner than normal. Hormone replacement therapy is often prescribed to help with symptoms.
● Grief. It's not uncommon for some women to feel a sense of loss after having a hysterectomy. Maybe you wanted to still have children or are feeling upset about the physical and emotional changes that are happening. Help is available, don't suffer alone.
● Other health problems. If both ovaries are removed during your hysterectomy, you could be at higher risk of developing heart disease, bone loss, and urinary incontinence. However, treatments and taking preventive steps can help.
● Sexual changes. After a hysterectomy, some women will notice a decrease in sexual desire. Vaginal dryness is also common after a hysterectomy, particularly if the ovaries are removed.