The Robotic Hysterectomy That Cured Diana's Relentless Pain
For 10 months, Diana Speaker had very heavy bleeding twice a month, and each cycle lasted at least 7 days. In total, that meant she was bleeding, cramping and in excruciating pain for 5 of the last 10 months.
"With each cycle, I had relentless back and pelvic pain and severe cramping that made me nauseous," says Diana. "On those days, I could only find relief in a heating pad and the maximum dose of Pamprin."
A few things led to Diana's pain and heavy bleeding. One cause was endometrial hyperplasia—an unusual thickening of the uterine lining. This thickening can be a precursor to uterine cancer. The pain came from an ovarian cyst that had grown from 2 to 6 ½ centimeters in just a few months.
At first, Diana took prescribed hormones to shrink the cyst but they had no effect.
"I was tired of the pain that was always there," she says. "This condition took over my life and left me drained and irritable."
Ready to reclaim her health and well-being, Diana made the decision to have a hysterectomy, or surgical removal of the uterus. She was referred to Virtua gynecologist Geoffrey Bowers, MD, who performs single-incision and minimally invasive hysterectomies through robotic surgery.
Diana had a single-incision hysterectomy—meaning the surgeon made one incision along the line of her belly button. That incision was used to insert surgical instruments and a miniaturized camera into her abdomen. The camera serves as the surgeon’s eyes during the procedure. The surgical instruments are wristed, which gives them greater flexibility and precision than an actual human hand.
When a woman has a hysterectomy, deciding on what to remove is balanced by both her diagnosis and her own personal decisions. Diana had hyperplasia and heavy bleeding. She was advised that these issues would be resolved by removing the uterus, cervix and fallopian tubes. She chose to keep her ovaries so they could continue to supply her body with hormones that help protect her heart, bones, skin and libido. When the ovaries are removed, a woman automatically enters menopause—no matter what age she is—and often experiences hot flashes, vaginal dryness, skin changes, weight gain, and other menopause symptoms.
Diana had the surgery on a Tuesday, and went home Wednesday. While a single-incision hysterectomy is a minimally invasive surgery, it’s still a major procedure that removes organs from the body.
Even still, Diana felt far better immediately after the surgery than she did right before she had it. "I had some pain that was easily managed with ibuprofen, but it was different and milder than what I had been enduring for months," she says.
Diana followed Dr. Bowers’ advice to take it easy in the days following the surgery. But, by the next Monday, she was back to walking for exercise, which, when done gently, helps the body recover more quickly from surgery.
At her post-op visit a week after surgery, Diana was thrilled to report that she felt 100 percent better. The bloated, heavy pressure she felt in her abdomen was gone, and she was finally pain-free.
"I wasn't slated to go back to work until 6 weeks after surgery," notes Diana. "But, I felt so good that Dr. Bowers released me early—just one month after a major surgery."
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Updated October 11, 2017