New technology allows for quicker recovery time for hysterectomy patients


by JIM BERGAMO / KVUE News and photojournalist JOHN GUSKY

Bio | Email | Follow: @JimB_KVUE

Posted on November 20, 2012 at 7:26 PM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 20 at 7:41 PM

AUSTIN -- It used to be when a woman required a hysterectomy she prepared for about a six-week recovery period. Now new advancements in robotic surgery developed in Austin have cut that time down to a week or two.

"I guess I did a lot of bragging," said Daphni Hamilton, a Pflugerville resident.

Bragging is not usually a byproduct of a complicated surgery.  When Hamilton, a mother of four, decided a hysterectomy was the only answer to her lingering medical problems, she prepared for the worst.

"I have some friends, older women, who have likened it to C-section," said Hamilton. "That's how they used to do it. They said they were out of work for six weeks."  

Hamilton wasn't out for six weeks. She wasn't even out for a week. She had the surgery on a Tuesday and was back to work that Friday.

"Everybody was like, 'You just had surgery. What are you doing here?'" said Hamilton.

The reason Hamilton was back to work in a week, jogging in two weeks and playing soccer in three is because of advancements in robotic-assisted hysterectomies that require fewer ports, or surgical entry ways, into the abdomen. A traditional robotic-assisted, or laparoscopic, hysterectomy requires three to five ports, but this new technique only requires two.

"If you are going to have a minimally invasive surgery you would want the one that's the most minimalistic," said Thomas Payne, M.D., the medical director for the Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery. "So if you can move from four to three incisions down to one or two, then that would be beneficial to you as far as recovery and pain and getting back to your normal life afterwards."

Doctors at the Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery developed the reduced-port technology. They say the surgeries are now possible because the instruments inserted into the da Vinci robotic arms can now do much more.

"Traditionally an instrument that could do one or two things can now do four or five things," said Devin Garza, M.D., a surgeon at the Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery. "That allows us to have one less access point."

And that's one less worry for Hamilton.  

"I didn't think I was going to be up and at it," said Hamilton. "I already told my soccer team, 'Hey! I might be out a couple of months.'  That's what everybody was telling me, right, 'It's like you are having a C-section. You are having a hysterectomy.'  No, it was no big deal."

In this reduced port hysterectomy one of the ports is for the camera tube. The other port is for the instrument that allows the doctors to perform the surgery.  Dr. Payne says by next year, it's quite possible surgeons at the Texas Institute for Robotic Surgery will only need one port to perform the entire procedure.

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