New surgery option eases recovery for hysterectomy patients

Dr. Pamela Twitty made history on April 30 at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North by becoming the first surgeon in Tampa to perform a single-site robotics-assisted hysterectomy.

Dr. Pamela Twitty made history on April 30 at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North by becoming the first surgeon in Tampa to perform a single-site robotics-assisted hysterectomy. (Courtesy of St. Joseph's Hospital-North)

Dr. Pamela Twitty made history on April 30 at St. Joseph’s Hospital-North by becoming the first surgeon in Tampa to perform a single-site robotics-assisted hysterectomy.
(Courtesy of St. Joseph’s Hospital-North)

The type of surgery had been performed previously in Clearwater and St. Petersburg, but not in Tampa, Twitty said.

She used a da Vinci robotic system to perform the surgery, controlling instruments from a console in the operating room.

In traditional hysterectomy surgery, doctors make a five- to seven-inch incision in the woman’s abdomen and remove the uterus through the laceration. That approach leaves noticeable scars and requires a month or two of recovery, Twitty said.

But with robotics-assisted surgery, recovery is quicker with less post-operative pain because it’s less invasive, and it reduces scarring as well.

Twitty performed the surgery on Land O’ Lakes resident Hollie Morris.

“I was pretty excited about it,” the 35-year-old said.

Morris didn’t have any misgivings about being Twitty’s first patient for this procedure because she had an established relationship with the doctor.

“I love Dr. Twitty. I trust her completely,” Morris said.

When Twitty explained the procedure, Morris said she could sense the doctor’s excitement about performing a surgery such as this. At the same time, Twitty wanted to make sure Morris was completely comfortable with the approach.

Morris found the prospect appealing for numerous reasons, she said. For one thing, since she has children, it was important for her to recover quickly and get back to the business of daily life. Secondly, she’d prefer not to have a large scar.

The surgery is done with a small cut in the naval.

“You can’t even see it,” Morris said.

Although she has felt some soreness, Morris said she’s sure she would have felt more pain if she’d had additional cuts.

“The day after surgery, I was up walking around,” Morris said.

In traditional hysterectomies, the size of the scar can vary based upon the surgical procedure that is used, the patient’s anatomy, and what needs to be done, Twitty said. The single-site option may be especially appealing to women in Florida, where swimming and going to the beach are popular pastimes.

“A lot of our patients in this area and in surrounding areas are interested in still being able to wear their swimsuits and their bikinis,” Twitty said. They want to be able to be out in the sun without any sign of their surgery.

The less invasive procedure also typically means less time in the hospital, Twitty said.

With a traditional hysterectomy, the hospital stay is two to four days. With the new surgery, it is often an overnight stay, or in some cases, they can leave the same day.

“And, healing and post-operative pain is typically less,” Twitty said. “You have a much smaller incision. It’s in a location where there’s less tension on the incision. There’s an expedited return to daily life because there’s less recuperation time, less pain.”

Twitty believes this type of surgery will become more commonly used as doctors are trained in using the technology and more patients become aware of it.

“I’ve already started talking to a number of my patients about this technology and being able to offer it,” Twitty said. “They are absolutely excited about it.”

Although robotic surgery itself has been around for about a decade, single-site technology — where one incision is made through the belly button — is a process that’s only been around for the past couple years or so, Twitty said.

“Initially, it was available for general surgeons,” she said. But there has been an expansion of the use by doctors in various specialties and more procedures have been approved.

Published May 14, 2014

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