|Two local OB/GYN surgeons among the four in midlands performing Total Laparoscopic Hysterectomy|
Many women continue to put off having the often referred to as “female surgery” due to fear of pain, a large scar and a long recovery time. Now there is good news for women in the Orangeburg-Calhoun area who are facing this decision. The Regional Medical Center is offering an innovative, minimally invasive option for women who need a hysterectomy.
Two Orangeburg gynecologists, Dr. Jerome Degen and Dr. Richard Richardson, are among the many physicians around the country and only four around the midlands of South Carolina, who perform this minimally invasive surgery, known as total laparoscopic hysterectomy. The procedure was developed to shorten recovery, reduce pain and complications, and minimize scarring.
Women who choose to have a total laparoscopic hysterectomy typically have an easier physical experience, most returning home in a few days and can be back at work and other normal activities in about two weeks. Traditional hysterectomies require an average hospital stay of three days and complete recovery may require up to two months.
“Historically, gynecologists have been trained to perform traditional open hysterectomies, which often are harder on patients,” said Dr. Richard Richardson. “Now, thanks to minimally invasive options, women do not need to be sidelined by hysterectomies. They can return to their normal lives in a much shorter time and experience a less painful recovery.”
“Women should discuss their treatment and recovery goals with their gynecologist when preparing to undergo a hysterectomy and ask if minimally invasive surgery would be an option,” explained Dr. Jerome Degen. “Many women research every possible treatment option before agreeing to a hysterectomy. However, once the decision is made, they may not investigate their surgical alternatives or question the options presented to them. As a result, many do not know minimally invasive hysterectomy is an option unless their physician brings it up.”
Both gynecologists noted that high risk patients, especially those who are obese, have less risk of infection with the minimally invasive procedure. “A significant number of overweight or obese women hold off on surgery because of fear of the pain often associated with a large incision,” said Dr. Degen. “The minimally invasive procedure is a wonderful alternative for these patients,” added Dr. Richardson. According to the doctors, this innovative surgery is a team effort; both of them participate in each of these surgeries as do the same team of nursing staff members.
The majority of gynecologists still perform traditional open hysterectomies that involve removing the uterus and cervix through a four- to six-inch incision that can leave a noticeable scar. Research indicates that minimally invasive options are better for the patient and result in fewer complications, less pain and quicker recoveries.
“I feel great!’ commented Geraldine Johnson, 49, of Orangeburg, who just two months ago had a hysterectomy. After suffering from pain and the other discomforts of menopause for some time, she discussed the new laparoscopic procedure with her physician, Dr. Degen. “After much thought and prayer, I decided the new procedure was the answer I had been awaiting,” Johnson said. “I knew I needed to have a hysterectomy for a while but decided to wait it out until living in fear of having ‘an accident’ from heavy bleeding, coupled with severe pain, led me to take action. Dr. Degen explained about the benefits of laparoscopic surgery, and I decided the new procedure was right for me. And it certainly was; I would do it again!”
Johnson shared that the surgery took little over an hour, and the healing process was fast. “Within two weeks I felt much improved, in fact, my daughter told me that she could tell I was feeling great. I was back to my household chores. Of course it’s important to listen to the doctor and not try to do too much too soon – recovery is a gradual process. My doctor also explained the necessity of continuing annual pap examinations. I’ve been back at work about a month and feel completely recovered. Just recently I saw about this new option in surgery on a national television program and thought, our local hospital is far ahead of many others in South Carolina and on the national level in offering this new option in surgery to our community.”
According to 36-year-old Stacy Cook of Lexington, having the new laparoscopic surgery has relieved her of the pain that severely impacted her life. “After my twins were born I began to have problems with endometriosis and suffered with much pain. My doctor, Dr. Degen and I discussed options, including hysterectomy. I stayed home with the babies for more than two years, and when I chose to re-enter the workforce, I found it very difficult to work and bear the constant pain I was experiencing. Some of the treatment options helped alleviate the pain temporarily, but it became evident that a hysterectomy was necessary to rid me of the pain on a permanent level,” Cook said.
“Due to fear of a large incision and an anticipated long recovery period, I had been putting off having surgery. I began researching about hysterectomy procedures and learned of the laparoscopic alternative, and when I went for the next consultation with my doctor, I received the sign I was hoping for and needed! We began discussing my options, and he told me about a new procedure that he was performing, and that was a ‘hallelujah moment’ for me. I had the surgery at the end of February and that was the best decision I ever made—I feel so much better. After an overnight stay at the Regional Medical Center, I was home the next day. Other than being sore a few days, there was no other discomfort. I had three small incisions and that was it. When I went for a check up recently, I told my doctor how good I feel and that I would like to be a testament to others about this procedure. It’s great to be free of pain and able to really enjoy life every day!”
The recently developed, minimally invasive, total laparoscopic hysterectomy uses a laparoscope, a fiber optic instrument that is inserted into the abdomen through a small incision. The laparoscope allows gynecologists to examine the inside of the abdomen and guide the surgical procedure while removing the uterus and cervix. The small incisions used for a laparoscopic hysterectomy are typically made in the navel and/or on the abdomen.
“Minimally invasive hysterectomies are an option for most women considering the procedure,” said Dr. Richardson. “Women need to be informed so they will know to ask about their options. Undergoing the procedure can be emotionally and physically challenging enough without unnecessary pain and recovery time.”
As with any surgical procedure, there are some potential risks associated with minimally invasive surgeries. A woman who is a candidate for a hysterectomy should discuss all surgical options with her physician. For more information about minimally invasive hysterectomy options, contact Dr. Richardson’s office at 534-0033 or Dr. Degen’s office at 536-9390.