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Find relief from heavy periods

Kathy Janesko suffered from heavy periods until robot-assisted surgery at Virtua "changed my life," she says.

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Kathy Janesko’s life used to be ruled by her period: Carefully choosing “safe” outfits to wear, making sure she had enough supplies, and feeling like she was out of control – until she decided to have roboticassisted surgery.

“I would spend two or three days a month in bed because of heavy bleeding with my period,” says Janesko. “This surgery totally changed my life.”

Kathy suffered from excessive and heavy periods, also called menorrhagia, a condition many women experience at different stages of their lives.

“My period became so heavy,” she says, “I couldn’t sleep through the night because I was afraid I would bleed through to the sheets.”

A reservist in the Army who is planning for a 2011 deployment to Iraq, she couldn’t afford to let her period run her life.

“With my period, I couldn’t perform my physical tests and do my job,” she remembers. “I couldn’t let my period run my life anymore.”

What’s normal
“Typically, a woman’s menstrual cycle lasts between 21 and 36 days,” says Wendy Martinez, MD, a Virtua obstetrician/gynecologist. She says a normal period might last up to eight days. “But if you’re changing your tampon hourly, it’s too heavy.”

Because heavy periods may be caused by conditions like fibroids, polyps and hormonal changes, Dr. Martinez rules out these conditions before exploring medical and non-invasive surgical options.

A low-dose birth control pill can be used to treat a woman with heavy or irregular periods who does not have any underlying medical issues,” says Dr. Martinez.

In some cases, Dr. Martinez may recommend endometrial ablation, a non-invasive surgical procedure used to treat heavy bleeding not caused by conditions that can be treated medically.

“Ablation is a non-invasive procedure that uses laser, heat, radiofrequency or heated saline to destroy the uterine lining,” says Dr. Martinez. “Fifty percent of women who have the procedure never get a period again. The other women experience lighter, more manageable periods.”

While endometrial ablation is not recommended for women who are considering pregnancy, it may be recommended for women who have not seen improvement with medical treatment.

“Heavy periods are more than just a nuisance,” Dr. Martinez says. “As women, we can’t afford to let our menstrual cycle rule our lives.”

When nothing else works
A hysterectomy is not for every woman who has heavy bleeding, but it may be a last resort after other medical and minimally invasive approaches have been tried.

Because of her diagnosis, medical treatments were not an option for Janesko. She met with Chike Obianwu, MD, a Virtua obstetrician/gynecologist who is trained in robotic-assisted surgery.

“Kathy was a perfect candidate for the robotic-assisted surgery,” says Dr. Obianwu. This procedure, using robotic technology offered at Virtua Memorial, is laparoscopic surgery in which the surgeon uses a robot to assist with the procedure.

“Like traditional laparoscopic surgery, the procedure requires only a few tiny incisions,” he says. “But unlike traditional surgery, the robotic cameras offer the surgeon a three dimensional 360 degree view of the surgical area.”

In the system, the surgeon sits at a station close to the patient. Hand movements at that station control the robotic instrument which is located at the patient’s body.

“The two main advantages to robot-assisted surgery are visualization and dexterity,” says Dr. Obianwu. “I have a 3-D view on a high definition screen instead of a traditional 2-D screen. The dexterity of the tools allows me to use less movement with more precise results.”

Janesko went home just 24 hours after her surgery. Two weeks later, she was back to her normal routine and just one month later, she was back to running for exercise.

“This surgery changed my life,” she says. “I’m completely back to my active lifestyle, and I’m ready to report for duty in Iraq.”