Daralyn Christensen, personal assistant, mother of two and barre instructor
New minimally-invasive robotic surgery helps patients get back to life faster with virtually no scarring
Daralyn Christensen, personal assistant, mother of two and barre instructor, had suffered from pain caused by uterine fibroids for years. Due to the fibroids’ size, quantity and location, surgical removal was not an option. Christiansen and her physician, Susana Gonzalez, MD, board-certified Obstetrician-Gynecologist at Queen of the Valley Medical Center, tried many other treatments, including low-dose birth control, which helped to ease the pain—temporarily.
“Over the last year, the pain increased. I couldn’t go to work. It was affecting my quality of life,” says Daralyn. “I had never given a hysterectomy much thought because I didn’t want to take off the six weeks of work.”
When Dr. Gonzalez shared that her recovery time would only be about three weeks if she opted for robotic surgery, Daralyn was astonished. She was also encouraged by the fact the scarring would be minimal. After years of pain, she booked the surgery.
Minimally-Invasive Robotic Surgery
For years, Queen of the Valley Medical Center has been at the forefront of robotic surgery, offering this minimally-invasive alternative to traditional open surgery or laparoscopy. Now, the hospital is home to the only robotics program with the da Vinci® Xi™ Surgical System in Napa and Solano counties and it’s making a difference in the lives of our community members in need of gynecological procedures.
“The beauty of these robotic procedures is that they barely leave a mark on the patient. Daralyn only needed three small incisions (a few centimeters in length) around the belly button. They are thin and barely noticeable,” says Dr. Gonzalez, one of several physicians who specialize in performing gynecological robotic procedures.
They now have the third generation robot, da Vinci Xi, which allows them to perform the procedure through a single-site incision.
The da Vinci Xi improves the surgeon’s dexterity and visibility. The arms mount onto an overhead boom which can pivot in any direction. The endoscope, which attaches to any of the robot’s four arms, displays a high definition, 3D image, enhancing the surgeon’s vision. The robot’s joints offer a fuller range of motion than is possible with the human hand, without any tremors.
Dr. Gonzalez says with this new system, patients experience:
- Less pain and scarring
- Less blood loss (two tablespoons compared to ½ liter in a traditional hysterectomy)
- Shorter hospital stay (most patients go home the same day compared to 3-4 days in the hospital for traditional hysterectomy)
- Less risk of infection
- Faster recovery time (2-4 weeks compared to 8 weeks for traditional hysterectomy)
Daralyn was back at the barre studio as a student 3 weeks after surgery and was teaching the class a month after the procedure.
“I was back home four hours after the procedure and the scars are completely healed; I got a spray tan and the technician didn’t even notice them! I can’t believe I waited so long, it was a simple solution for something that caused me so much pain,” she says. “It’s changed my whole life.”
As many as 80 percent of American women are affected by fibroids — noncancerous growths that develop in the uterus. Women can have one fibroid or many, as small as a pea or as large as a melon. Although treatment is not always necessary, some women experience debilitating symptoms such as heavy menstrual bleeding, pelvic pain and fertility problems. Depending on their location, fibroids can also press on the bladder, causing frequent urination.
What causes fibroids is still unclear, but risk factors include age and family history. In fact, fibroids are most common among women in their 30s and 40s, prior to menopause. Obesity and a diet high in red meat are also linked with higher occurrence of fibroids, and African-American women are at higher risk than women of other ethnicities.
Other Treatment Options
For decades, hysterectomy was the only treatment option for painful fibroids. But thanks to medical advancements, women suffering from fibroid symptoms now have a wider range of treatment options, including hormone therapy, endometrial ablation and uterine fibroid embolization.
“A minimally-invasive hysterectomy is usually recommended after all other treatment options have been considered,” says Gonzalez. “At Queen of the Valley Medical Center, we recommend robotic surgery using the da Vinci Xi for patients with benign fibroids who have not been able to fix the problem with medical therapy and continue to have significant issues and discomfort.”
If you’re a woman experiencing pain in your uterus or excessive menstrual bleeding, schedule an appointment with your OB/GYN to determine if you’re suffering from uterine fibroids and what your best treatment approach is based on your medical history.
For more information on robotic-assisted surgery at Queen of the Valley Medical Center, click here.
This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.