Being a wife. Chasing after her three young sons. Working as a nurse. These are some of the things Christina Shollack, R.N., loves. They’re also the things she was steadily losing energy for, due to pelvic pain so severe it sent her to the emergency room in September 2012.
“Within two weeks after our summer vacation on Lake Michigan, I was at the hospital,” she recalls. “I thought my appendix was going to burst or an ovarian cyst had ruptured.” Neither was the case, but over the next several months, as various tests came back normal, Shollack’s pain continued.
As a nurse, Shollack began to suspect the source of her pain was scar tissue on the round ligament that helps support the uterus. If she was right, she knew, she would probably need a hysterectomy. After conferring with her primary care physician, Shollack sought treatment from Burton S. Brodsky, M.D., a gynecologist with Botsford Hospital.
She had heard about the advantages of robotic surgery but wasn’t sure she was a candidate. After an evaluation, Dr. Brodsky determined using da Vinci was an option. Knowing it meant a faster recovery time, Shollack was thrilled.
In and out in under a day
When the day for surgery arrived, the da Vinci 3-D camera revealed the source of Shollack’s pain: internal scarring from previous surgeries, including three C-sections, gallbladder removal, and an appendectomy. The camera also enabled Dr. Brodsky to see that he would be able to perform Shollack’s complex hysterectomy that day, during the same minimally invasive procedure. It was the first Single-Site benign hysterectomy in Michigan using da Vinci’s new Single-Site technology.
Two hours later, Schollack was in the recovery room. Though she had undergone major surgery, she lost only 10 cubic centimeters (cc) of blood—about two teaspoons. “That’s significantly less than the 200 to 250 cc for a tradition open hysterectomy,” says Dr. Brodsky. Like most of Dr. Brodsky’s patients, Shollak spent less than 24 hours in the hospital. Within four days, she was off prescription pain medicine—no surprise to her surgeon.
Says Dr. Brodsky, referring to the throat irritation often caused by the endotracheal tubes used for general anesthesia: “One patient told me her throat hurt more than her incision did. There’s nothing better than hearing that.”
Just six days after her hysterectomy, Shollack was preparing for her family’s annual vacation on Lake Michigan. “I’m doing great,” she said. “Because of the incision, I didn’t go in the water with my boys, but I watched them from the beach. You can’t get a better view than that.”
The view with da Vinci
With da Vinci Single-Site technology, doctors can perform complex surgeries with just one small incision. A special plastic port placed in the incision has four insertion holes for introducing a tiny, high-definition camera and flexible instruments. The camera provides 3-D views of the anatomy. Thumb controls allow surgeons to move the instruments in exactly the same way the move their hands and wrists during open surgery.
It’s the specialized instruments and the unique port—which enable the surgical team to position instruments at the best angles—that make da Vinci Single-Site procedures possible.
Dr. Brodsky believes robotic technology has revolutionized surgery. “It gives you every benefit,” he says. “For the surgeon, there’s better visualization and greater dexterity.”
The most important benefits, though, go to the patient: low blood loss, less pain, and quicker recover. Because the single incision is made through the navel, there’s cosmetic bonus—a virtually invisible scar. Botsford is the first hospital in the state of Michigan to use da Vinci Single-Site for benign hysterectomy.