"I've had labor pain and I've had gallbladder pain," says Lindsay G., a 32-year-old wife and mother of two from Elgin, Illinois. "Believe me, the gallbladder pain was much worse." That's why Lindsay opted to have her gallbladder removed; and she chose to have it done at Northwest Community Hospital (NCH) where the da Vinci® Single Site™ cholecystectomy (removal of the gallbladder) could be performed through a single incision.
NCH was the first hospital in the northwest suburbs of Chicago to remove a gallbladder through a tiny incision at the belly button using robotic technology and leaving patients virtually free of scars. This new surgical approach is a significant advancement in how surgeries will be performed in the future and the role of robotic technology in the operating room.
Even so, Lindsay's decision to have surgery was not a simple one. She found out she had gallstones in the first trimester of her second pregnancy. "I had recently lost 30 lbs., and then found out I was pregnant," explains Lindsay, "So my body was going through a lot of changes. When I started having abdominal pain, I thought it was some weird form of morning sickness. But I was having sharp excruciating pain from 9 pm to 2 am; and nothing I did, nothing, made it lessen or stop." She had everything checked out by her OBGYN to be sure the baby was fine.
One night, the pain was so bad, she ended up in the NCH Emergency Room. "Dr. Wallace in the ER was the first person to suggest gallstones – no one had ever thought about that because my episodes were never related to food." Dr. Brian Wallace brought in Dr. Willis Parsons, medical director of the NCH Gastroenterology Center, to see Lindsay. They performed an endoscopy to confirm their diagnosis, cleared out any blockages in her ducts and reassured her that she would be fine. "The goal was to delay surgery to the second trimester," says Lindsay, "or, if possible, to go through the entire pregnancy without surgery." Lindsay was referred to surgeon Dr. Robert Aki, for follow up.
Under careful observation and following a strict low-fat diet, Lindsay made it through the pregnancy and gave birth in April. But by June, the gallstones were back – bigger and more plentiful than before. She and Dr. Aki started discussing her surgical options. "I was a little leery when I heard the word 'robotic.' But I knew that the surgeon would be performing the surgery, not a robot," says Lindsay. On September 25, Dr. Aki used robotic assistance to remove Lindsay's gallbladder through a single incision of approximately one inch.
"The Single-Site procedure is only possible using the most advanced robotic technology - the da Vinci Si – because its precision and the 3-D visualization of the surgical field is far superior to conventional laparoscopy," Dr. Aki explained. During the procedure, the surgeon sits comfortably at a console, viewing a 3-D, high-definition image of the patient's anatomy. The surgeon uses controls below the viewer to move the instrument arms and camera. In real-time, the system translates the surgeon's hand, wrist and finger movements into more precise movements of the miniaturized instruments inside the patient.
Best of all, patients who have their gallbladder removed with the assistance of the da Vinci robot experience less scarring and potentially faster recovery times, with many patients able to go home the very same day. "I have had a c-section and the recovery was much harder than this," says Lindsay. "The gallbladder scar in my belly button is so small, you can't even see it!"
To read other patient success stories, click here.