Robot Expands Minimally Invasive Surgery Options for Women

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January 15, 2010

“The word is out on robotic minimally invasive surgery and it is well overdue in Buffalo,” said Ali Ghomi, MD of Mercy Hospital’s Obstetrics/Gynecology (OB/GYN) Department, who performed the area’s first robotic-assisted hysterectomy for benign indications, myomectomy (removal of fibroids in the uterus) and sacrocolpopexy (repair of pelvic organ prolapse) this past fall at Mercy Hospital.

“My patients are back on their feet in days rather than weeks,” noted Dr. Ghomi. “Robotic-assisted surgery is helping us pioneer a new standard of patient care in gynecological surgery.”

Last October, Pam Littere of Buffalo became the first patient locally to undergo a robotic-assisted hysterectomy for a benign condition. Having two previous open abdominal surgeries in 2005 and 2008, she knew firsthand the difference in pain level and recovery time with the robotic technique.

“With my first abdominal surgery, it took me almost 4 weeks to just stand up and have the strength to walk around, not to mention the amount of pain I was in,” said Littere. “With the robotic surgery, I felt almost 100% in only 8 days…it was remarkable.”

Dr. Ghomi, who also serves as Fellowship Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery and Assistant Professor of OB/GYN at the University of Buffalo, estimates that before the arrival of robotic surgery, traditional “open” surgery was needed in over 90 percent of cases for myomectomies, sacrocolpopexies, and complex hysterectomies.

“For instance, many hysterectomies are currently performed laparoscopically but complex cases often require conversion to an open procedure,” he explained. “The advanced technology of the da Vinci® robot has changed that by giving us a surgical tool that provides the magnified visualization and surgical precision necessary to successfully perform a complicated hysterectomy while maintaining a minimally invasive approach.”

“Women should know that this option exists in our community,” expressed Diana Dabell, a 39-year-old emergency medicine resident with the University of Buffalo, who recently underwent the first robotic-assisted myomectomy in the region with Dr. Ghomi. “I felt great after the surgery, a little sore, but it only interrupted my life for a week versus 6 weeks if I had needed an open operation.”

Acquired at Mercy Hospital in 2005, the $1.5 million da Vinci robot is also used for cardiac and urologic procedures, including mitral valve repair and prostatectomy.

Born out of state-of-the-art robotic technology designed by NASA and the Department of Defense and later adapted for minimally invasive surgery, the da Vinci Surgical System has four arms that are inserted into the patient through small, key-hole sized incisions. Through these ports, the surgeon is able to control and guide the robotic instrument arms and the endoscopic arm during the procedure while sitting at a console a few feet away from the operating table. A magnified 3-D system gives the surgeon an enhanced view of the surgical field.