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Surgery that doesn't feel like surgery: Robotic techniques from a Center of Excellence

Surgery that doesn't feel like surgery: Robotic techniques from a Center of Excellence

Rhonda Detzel received state-of-the-art robotic surgery to provide better support to her bladder. She says it is an advance in technology that has made surgery an all-around better experience for patients. 

She should know. 

Rhonda underwent a hysterectomy in 2001, a surgery that was done in the traditional way. For that procedure, she had a 7-inch incision in her lower abdomen and was in the hospital for three days. A normally active person, she felt tired and weak afterward, and had a fair amount of pain that, she said, "threw me for a loop." 

Fast forward almost two decades to her robotic surgery, which was a totally different experience. 

"It was like I didn't even have anything done," says the retired WellSpan nurse. "I didn't need any pain medicine when I went home, just some ibuprofen. It was like I could just go about my business. I wasn't lying around, sleeping extra, or feeling tired." 

Rhonda had her robotic surgery at WellSpan York Hospital, which recently joined an elite group of robotic-assisted surgical centers in Pennsylvania by being accredited as a Center of Excellence in Robotic Surgery by the Surgical Review Corporation (SRC) a nonprofit patient safety organization. It is the first healthcare facility in South Central Pennsylvania to reach this prestigious accreditation. 

Dr. Carlos Roberts, who performed her surgery, is among six surgeons at WellSpan York Hospital to achieve the designation of Master Surgeon in Robotic Surgery from SRC. 

Women are frequent recipients of robotic surgery, which spans multiple specialties including gynecology, urogynecology, gynecologic oncology, urology, bariatric, thoracic, colorectal, and general surgery, Roberts says. 

"Robotic surgery offers women a speedy recovery from surgeries such as the ones Rhonda had," he says. "She has the unique experience of having surgery the traditional way and the robotic method, so she personally could compare the differences and knows the advantages of robotic surgery." 

Rhonda says robotic surgery was a great fit for her active lifestyle, including her job as a busy nurse who bustled around and cared for patients on the short-stay unit at WellSpan York Hospital where she worked at the time. She did not want surgery to slow her down, as it did with her first experience. 

"After my hysterectomy, I was so weak and uncomfortable that it took four weeks till I could tolerate walking slowly for 15 minutes. I gradually had to increase my walking time and pace and was finally able to power walk by seven weeks," she notes. "After my robotic procedure, I had no weakness and so little discomfort that I was able to start power walking three days after my surgery. That is a significant difference!" 

"I was pleasantly surprised by the whole thing," says Rhonda, who still is very active, playing pickleball, hiking, riding her bike, and walking. "I was counting my blessings when I compared it to the first experience I had." 

She would tell anyone who is preparing for robotic surgery: "Expect to have a really fast recovery. Go for it and take advantage of how surgical techniques have evolved." 

Robotic surgery is offered across the WellSpan system, including at WellSpan York Hospital, WellSpan Chambersburg Hospital, WellSpan Gettysburg Hospital, WellSpan Good Samaritan Hospital, and WellSpan Ephrata Community Hospital. 

This type of surgery is not performed by a robot but is a sophisticated surgical method that is robotic assisted. WellSpan surgeons use the minimally invasive approach that allows them to access hard-to-reach places with greater precision, an increased range of motion, and an enhanced view. 

Surgeons perform the surgery through four small incisions, inserting three robotic arms equipped with miniaturized surgical tools and one arm equipped with a stereoscopic high-definition camera. The surgeon sits at a specially designed console positioned in the operating room near the patient, manipulating the instruments and the camera that gives a 3D view that is 10 times the magnification of the naked eye. 

Robotic surgery offers many benefits, including: 

  • Significantly less pain. 
  • Less blood loss and need for transfusion.
  • Fewer complications including a lower risk of infection.
  • A shorter hospital stay.
  • Quicker recovery and return to normal activities.
  • Small incisions with minimal scarring. 

For more information on robotic surgery, go here.