The surgical removal of a woman’s uterus is termed as hysterectomy. This surgery is generally done through a small incision with the help of a thin, lighted scope with a camera on its end.
In a robotic-assisted laparoscopic hysterectomy, the surgeon makes the use of a computer for controlling the surgical instruments. The computer is operated from an operating room. The surgeon controls the robot’s movements steadily and precisely with the help of the computer. This lets him/her get into smaller spaces more easily as compared with conventional laparoscopic surgery.
Hysterectomies are performed to treat several conditions, which include:
- Uterine fibroids
- Cancer or precancer of the uterus, ovaries or cervix
- Uterine prolapse
- Pelvic pain
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
Robotic hysterectomy is recommended by your doctor if he/she feels that you are not a candidate for regular hysterectomy due to your medical history. If you have some surgical scars or some irregularity in the pelvic organs, that limits your options.
It is likely that you will need some physical exams before the tests. Some of the tests your surgeon can order might include blood tests, a chest X-ray or an electrocardiogram. Let your surgeon known if you are taking any medications or supplements. It is likely that your surgeon will recommend you against taking aspirin or any other medications that thin your blood and can increase bleeding.
If anyone in your family has any history of a bad reaction to general anesthesia, let your healthcare provider know. It is also important to stop smoking as it can interfere with your healing process.
You will need to fast for some time prior to your surgery. If you will receive general anesthesia, it is important to consume nothing after midnight for at least eight hours before your surgery.
You can discuss with your surgeon whether you should continue to take your regular medications on the morning of the procedure.
First, you will need to lie on your back. You might have a urinary catheter inserted for emptying the bladder. A member of your surgical team then cleans the surgical area with a sterile solution before your surgery.
After you are given an anesthetic, your doctor will create a few small surgical cuts in your abdomen and insert slender surgical instruments through them.
During the procedure, your surgeon will need to use control devices for directing the surgical instruments that will be removing the uterus.
Depending on your condition, your surgeon might also need to remove one or both of your ovaries and your fallopian tubes. While the surgeon performs the operation, an assistant at the operating table will reposition the instruments and add or remove any surgical devices as needed. He/she will provide any other support to the surgeon if required.
Your uterus is then cut into small pieces so that they are removable through the small incisions. Depending on the reasons for your procedure, your whole uterus might be removed or just the part above your cervix.
After the procedure
After the surgery, you will be taken to a recovery room to be monitored as you recover from the anesthesia. Most people generally require a stay for a few days at the hospital. You might experience some pain after this procedure. To control it, you will likely receive pain medicine through your IV. Once you are able to drink fluids and your bowels start to pass gas, your IV will be removed.
Within a few days, your bladder catheter is going to be removed. You might experience bleeding from your vagina which requires the use of pads. You will be encouraged to get up and walk as soon as you can. This can help in the prevention of blood clots from forming in your legs. You might also receive pain medicine that can help prevent blood clots. Caregivers might help you with your daily tasks.
Once you are home, it is important to follow all instructions provided by your surgeon. You also need to take medications as directed. Make sure that you keep your follow-up appointments.
You need to keep the incision areas dry for a few days. Follow your surgeon’s instructions regarding bathing and dressing care. You might need to go back to him/her to have your stitches removed. In a few days, you should gradually be able to resume your daily activities. Avoid lifting heavy objects for a few weeks. Discuss with your surgeon when you will be able to return to specific activities.
You might continue to have light bleeding from your vagina. You might also receive instructions not to put anything into your vagina for around 6 weeks.
Complete recovery should take anywhere between a few weeks to a few months.
If you experience any of the following, inform your surgeon:
- Increasing pain or pain that medication is not able to relieve
- Chest pain or shortness of breath
- Pain or swelling in your legs
- Any drainage, redness, bleeding or swelling from the incision areas
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
In addition to the physical symptoms of recovery, you might also experience a few emotional symptoms. After this procedure, pregnancy is no longer possible and your periods are going to stop as well.
If your ovaries were also removed as part of this procedure, then you might notice few symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes as well as vaginal dryness. Some women might benefit from hormone therapy after going through a hysterectomy. You can choose to discuss this with your doctor.
A robotic hysterectomy is generally a safe procedure, but like all surgeries, it has a few risks, which include:
- Heavy bleeding
- Blood clots in the legs or lungs
- Adverse reaction to the anesthetic
- Damage to the bladder or any nearby organ