Robotic Hernia Surgery: What's In It For You?
Hernia surgery is one of the most common non-urgent surgeries in the United States, with about a million people a year undergoing a repair. Many people put off having it because they don't want to take time off work or the recovery restrictions for weeks afterward. But today's surgical technology is changing that – consider robotic hernia surgery as an option.
"Hernias traditionally get repaired through an incision in the groin or abdomen. Using the DaVinci Robot, we can repair defects and place mesh in layers of the abdominal wall rather than inside of the abdominal cavity, which makes the process less painful, and speeds recovery time," said Dr. Mark Fontana, with Sentara Surgery Specialists. His specialty is hernia repair surgeries, as well as gallbladder, colon and intestinal surgery.
What to Know About Hernias
First, what is a hernia? There are a number of different types but the basic definition is a weakness in the abdominal wall that allows the intestines or fatty tissue to push through.
Second, why does it need to be repaired? It needs to be repaired because the hole it pushes through may restrict blood flow to the intestine trapped in the bulge. Over time, the hernia will not repair itself, it will only get bigger. The mesh that's inserted strengthens the area near the original hole and prevents future hernias.
Many people do not realize they have a hernia, and only find out when they have pain or a bulge in the abdominal wall. Often, they have no symptoms and are discovered on an image, such as a CT scan, that is being performed for another problem. There is growing evidence that while some hernias are caused by mechanical issues, such as lifting something too heavy, many are genetically linked. If someone in your family has had a hernia, you may be at risk as well.
"A hernia is basically something sticking out where it shouldn't be. Many people don't understand the anatomy of their torso, but the muscular layers of the abdominal walls help support all of the internal organs and it's important to keep everything functioning properly," said Dr. Fontana.
Types of Hernia Repair
The most common types of hernias are inguinal (in the groin), incisional (in areas of previous surgeries), hiatal (in the diaphragm) and umbilical (in the belly button). The robotic techniques are part of a surgical evolution from open surgery (where an incision is made over the area to be repaired) to laparoscopic repair (where small incisions are made and a camera provides the view to work inside the body). Robotic surgery allows more range of movement, visibility and stability for the surgeon – for safe and delicate work.
"The surgeon's training and tools can make a big difference for the patient. Robotic surgery is allowing us to perform procedures that were not possible with standard minimally-invasive or laparoscopic techniques," said Dr. Fontana.
Quicker Recovery, Less Pain
The difference is that the patch is placed between the layers of muscle in the abdominal wall. This translates into less pain, shorter hospitalization and quicker recovery time. Dr. Fontana said that studies of robotic hernia repairs show evidence that there's a low risk of recurrence and complication from placement of mesh as well.
So for people who suspect they have hernia, this option may offer the incentive they need to get it repaired. Robotic hernia surgery is minimally-invasive, and many people can recover in a week or two instead of four to six weeks.
Dr. Mark Fontana is a general surgeon at Sentara Surgery Specialists in Norfolk. To find out more, contact Sentara Surgery Specialists in Norfolk, at (757) 261-5000.