Everywhere you turn, there are articles and advertisements touting the benefits of robotic surgery, so it’s no surprise that our patients routinely ask if their scheduled hysterectomy will be performed using a robot. And in many cases, the answer is yes!
We may recommend a hysterectomy to treat several conditions, such as:
- Uterine fibroids
- Cancer of the uterus, cervix or ovaries
- Uterine prolapse
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
For many patients, a minimally-invasive hysterectomy using the robotic system can offer numerous potential benefits over traditional approaches to vaginal or open abdominal hysterectomy. This is particularly true when performing more challenging procedures like a radical hysterectomy for gynecologic cancer.
Potential benefits of this type of surgery include:
- Less pain
- Less blood loss
- Fewer complications
- Less scarring
- A shorter hospital stay
- A faster return to normal daily activities
Incisions for a robotic procedure are much smaller than those used for open surgery, so you’ll have less tissue trauma and smaller scars than you’d have following a traditional abdominal hysterectomy. Traditionally, a surgeon holds instruments, but being limited to only two hands, they need an assistant who can hold and move things. With the robot, the surgeon can control four arms at once. The surgeon still controls everything attached to the computer via remote control, but they can use four instruments at one time. Plus, there’s a 3-dimensional camera for them to be able to see better and manipulate instruments more precisely.
During a robotic-assisted hysterectomy, surgeons make three or four half-inch cuts near the navel. They then use a laparoscope – which is a device that allows better vision into the abdomen – and other surgical instruments attached to the computer’s robotic arms to perform the intricate surgery necessary to remove the tissues as needed.
Different people recover at different rates, but staying in the hospital only one night is typical. While you’re there, treatment team members will monitor you to make sure you’re comfortable. You may receive medications to reduce pain and/or prevent infection. You can expect light vaginal bleeding for a few days to weeks after your robotic hysterectomy.
Following the procedure, you’ll no longer have menstrual periods. If your ovaries were also removed, you’ll experience immediate menopause. We will discuss the pros and cons of hormone therapy to help manage menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and night sweats.
You may need as long as six weeks to recover. While you’re recovering, we may advise you to get plenty of rest, limit your physical activity and avoid heavy lifting. Patients can generally expect to return to work three to four weeks after the procedure. Regarding sexual activity, you’ll need to avoid intercourse for nine weeks following the procedure. If your hysterectomy relieves chronic pain or heavy bleeding, you may experience an increase in sexual satisfaction. Intercourse can generally be resumed 6-8 weeks after hysterectomy.