It is widely known that we women are the primary healthcare decision makers for our families. We will take all the time necessary to research the most experienced doctor for our father’s prostate condition or the best orthopedic surgeon for our husband’s bad shoulder, not to mention the lengths we go to when our kids need medical attention. We arrive at doctors’ offices armed with information and questions.
Except when it’s about our own health.
When it comes to gynecologic surgery, according to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), more than 600,000 women a year face a surgery that is done with outdated methods – more than 60 percent of the time. And more than 300,000 endure overly invasive surgeries with higher risk and pain.
According to Dr. Joseph Montella, interim chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, “I think it’s a simple fact of women not knowing their options. It’s very easy to just go along with your doctor’s recommendations without asking some important questions. Minimally invasive techniques as opposed to invasive procedures could really have a huge impact on length of stay and recovery.”
Dr. Montella went on to add that at Jefferson, we are leading the way in advanced treatments for women. Gregory Fossum, MD, and his colleagues in gynecological surgery were recently recognized by the industry as leaders in robotic-assisted surgery and will serve as mentors and instructors for area robotic gyn surgeons.
Jefferson was chosen as a regional leader due to its reputation as a high volume robotic-assisted surgery center with positive outcomes, the expertise of our surgeons and our passion for teaching. Jefferson is the first academic medical center in the country to be recognized in this way.
Almost one-third of all women have a hysterectomy by the time they reach the age of 60. Typically, the procedure is done because of pain and bleeding from fibroids.
Unfortunately, too many physicians are still performing traditional open hysterectomies where the abdomen is opened to remove the uterus. In fact, in 2010 almost 80 percent of hysterectomies performed were done this way. Minimally invasive techniques such as laparoscopic and robotic-assisted hysterectomies require advanced training and expertise that may not be available in community hospitals, and therefore are not even offered as an option. The difference for women is important.
An abdominal hysterectomy may require four to six days in the hospital and six to eight weeks of painful recovery at home. A robotic-assisted hysterectomy, on the other hand, reduces that stay to one to two days in the hospital; you can be back to work in a week!
In addition to less hospital and recovery time, minimally invasive procedures produce fewer complications, less blood loss and better outcomes.
A myomectomy is a fertility-saving procedure that removes benign fibroid tumors but keeps the uterus intact. With a traditional open procedure, you can expect a two- to three-day hospital stay and then several weeks of recovery. Additionally, there is a lot of suturing required for these open procedures that can produce complications later if you should become pregnant.
A robotic-assisted myomectomy requires less suturing, which means you have a better chance of sustaining a pregnancy, and you can leave the hospital a few hours after surgery. You can also expect to be back to work in a week, and there is no delay in fertility treatments.
Questions to ask about your type of surgery
If you or someone you care about is considering one of these procedures, it is important to be informed and get the information you need. A good list of questions might include:
- Am I a candidate for minimally invasive surgery?
- How many surgeries for my diagnosis do you do each month?
- What percentage are minimally invasive surgeries? What percentage are open incision?
- Would you recommend a laparoscopic surgery for me? If no, why not?
- Will the doctor make a bladder tack? What is a bladder tack? (If you have incontinence, this is the time to bring it up, as this is the best time for bladder and/or rectum repair.)
- How long will surgery take?
- Exactly what will be removed? Uterus, ovaries, tubes, cervix, appendix? (How will these organs be removed? Through open abdominal incision? Through the vagina? With the help of a laparoscope?)
To schedule an appointment with a Jefferson physician, call 1-800-JEFF-NOW or use our online Find A Doctor tool.