Posted by: Joe Nuss on Apr 28, 2011
Carolina Robot: Cutting Edge for Women’s Health
By Kerry Grace Heckle
Any mom knows that kids don’t slow down because mom’s not feeling her best.
Jennifer Brunelli, 34, of Raleigh knows that first-hand. The pain she’s suffered for the last five years has made it virtually impossible at times to be a ‘regular’ mom.
“I’ve had chronic lower left back pain at the base of my back,” laments Jennifer. “I’d been to chiropractors, to spine care specialists. But, in the end, felt like the pain might have something to do with my reproductive organs.”
So this past September, Jennifer followed the advice of a co-worker and made an appointment with Jack Inge, M.D. of Mid-Carolina OBGYN to investigate her pain. She says that doing so has changed her life.
“Dr. Inge said that there was something’s going on with my left ovary,” shared Jennifer.
An ultrasound revealed that while her uterus was fine, her left ovary had cysts, or almond-shaped, fluid-filled sacs on her ovary’s surface.
“Many women have ovarian cysts or uterine fibroids at some point,” explains Dr. Inge. “Most present little or no discomfort and are harmless. However those that cause severe pain as Jennifer experienced should be removed.”
Jennifer found great relief in knowing the cause of her pain and was determined to eradicate it. But as a busy mom of children now 8 and 9, whatever the fix had to be swift. Dr. Inge recommended that Jennifer have a robotic hysterectomy using the daVinci robot at Rex.
“Dr. Inge conveyed to me enough information about the procedure that I felt comfortable making the decision pretty quickly,” shared Jennifer. “I decided that it was something I needed to do – the cysts could rupture or come back.”
Robots are computer-assisted tools that offer another way for physicians to perform surgery. This technology makes it the most effective, least invasive surgical treatment option available. This course of treatment isn’t right for everyone, but seemed perfect for Jennifer.
Thus far, robotic surgery has been widely used at Rex to treat prostate cancer. Dr. Inge is currently the only OBGYN at Rex using this technology to assist women with gynecological issues.
Here’s how it works: in an incision, a physician performs surgery by moving instruments outside the body while watching on a video screen. The robot itself, which looks like a computer console, translates the surgeon’s hand movements into movements on a camera. Instruments are held by the second piece of a robot adjacent to the operating room table. The video system provides surgeons like Dr. Inge with a highly magnified, three-dimensional view of a patient's internal anatomy. Nevertheless, the robot doesn’t operate on autopilot. A highly skilled physician is still necessary to perform these delicate, complex procedures.
The unmatched precision a robotic surgery offers allows for greater motility of a surgeon’s hands and a multitude of benefits for the patient including significantly less pain, reduced blood loss, less scarring, a shorter recovery time, a faster return to normal daily activities and often a better clinical outcome.
“The technology now offered at Rex for gynecology is pretty amazing,” shares Dr. Inge. “The extra precision the robot offers is invaluable. It can also be a uterine-preserving alternative to open abdominal hysterectomy, enabling women to still get pregnant. Most women can go back to work within a couple of weeks.”
Jennifer had no fears about the robotic procedure; she was confident in Dr. Inge’s ability - he has spent years perfecting his skill - and was ready to benefit from newer technology with a personal touch right here at Rex.
After having the robotic hysterectomy, Jennifer says she is no longer in agony and has taken back her role as mom with gusto.
“I have minor aches and pains like everyone else from time to time, but I don’t need a pain reliever (to function),” shares Jennifer. “My energy level is higher than it’s been in years and I can get up and down without my back hurting. It’s no longer a chore to move around!”
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