New minimally invasive options are helping many of the 600,000 hysterectomy patients each year return to their active lifestyles weeks faster than patients just a few years ago. “Minimally invasive” is a term that includes “laparoscopic surgery,” which requires just dime-sized abdominal incisions. During this procedure, surgeons use a thin, tube-shaped instrument, known as a laparoscope, to view internal organs without having to make a large cut. The result typically is less pain, blood loss, and reduced risk of infection; smaller scars; and a quicker recovery.

The latest advancement in laparoscopic hysterectomy is the robotic da Vinci® Surgical System, whose name gives a nod to the iconic inventor, scientist, and artist, Leonardo da Vinci. “We sit at a console and use control instruments that mimic our natural hand movements, giving us greater flexibility and precision,” explains Andrea Messina, MD, Park Nicollet Obstetrics and Gynecology. “Because of its magnification and 3-D high-definition screen, we also are able to see tissue layers and blood vessels much more clearly, which helps us minimize trauma and bleeding,” Dr. Messina adds.

A leader in da Vinci procedures

At Park Nicollet, seven gynecologists and one urogynecologist are specially trained to perform hysterectomies, myomectomies and other procedures with da Vinci– more than any other hospital group or practice in the Twin Cities. Since its arrival in February 2008, this group has used it to perform more than 200 surgeries, primarily hysterectomies, including 50 done by Dr. Messina.

Perhaps one of the greatest virtues of da Vinci surgery is that it enables more patients to qualify for laparoscopic surgery than ever before. “Many patients with large fibroids, endometriosis and other gynecological conditions who would have required open surgery in the past can now benefit by having surgery laparoscopically,” Dr. Messina says. There are times, however, when other options are needed.

When da Vinci isn’t an option

Park Nicollet continues to provide the gamut of hysterectomy approaches. “There are three ways we can perform hysterectomies – vaginal, abdominal and abdominal laparoscopy, which includes da Vinci surgery,” Dr. Messina explains. “We prefer vaginal or laparoscopic approaches whenever possible because they allow women to recover more quickly – usually within one to two weeks.” The smaller number of patients who require open abdominal surgery can be part of Park Nicollet’s Rapid Recovery Program, which also has resulted in shorter hospital stays and improved recovery.