YOUR HEALTH: Robotic hernia surgery for quicker recoveries

SAN ANTONIO, Texas – More than a million hernia surgeries are performed each year.

But what was previously a very invasive operation is now high tech.

Diane Pineda had her first hernia surgery 20 years ago but a new twist developed recently when her intestines pushed through the hole in the muscle wall.

"I tried to get up out of bed and could not move."

An inguinal hernia had forced part of her intestines through a previously implanted mesh netting that was supporting her abdominal wall.

"That's what was pinching me and causing me to go into a fever."

The cause of hernias can be anything from increased abdominal pressure, severe allergies causing coughing, or even obesity.

She opted for robotic hernia repair.

The surgeon is seated at a computer console and remotely controls the robotic arms.    It's the best of what technology offers: 3-D, high definition, and control.

"The arms or the instruments that we're able to use robotically, are articulated, meaning they're like our hands are in there," explained Dr. Michael Albrecht, Director of Baptist Health System's Robotic Center of Excellence.

"The robot allows the surgeon to have all control of all the instruments that are performing the surgery."

Using robotics and a tiny incision, there is a much lower risk of infection.

"For the majority of hernias, fairly small ones, the inguinal hernias," said Dr. Donald Dilworth, Medical Director of Baptist Health System's Hernia Center.

"My personal protocol is to send them back on family walks on day four, at day seven I want them back on an elliptical or treadmill.   At two weeks, we actually lift their restrictions, there are no further lifting restrictions at all."

That means patients like Diane can get back to life more quickly.

Doctors say not only is the robotic surgery more effective, there is minimal pain and less risk for taking opioids, which are very addictive.

And there are other benefits.

Dr. Dilworth says that this robotic method of doing hernia surgery allows for him to better see both sides of the hernia.

"It gives you the ability to fully evaluate the other side and find out if they have a hernia on the other side as well because a lot of times people will have a hernia on both sides."

He says the second hernia may be smaller and more difficult to clinically detect.

"But when you're in the operating room, it gives you the ability to look at it and repair it as well, with the same incisions," he said.

If this story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Jim Mertens at jim.mertens@wqad.com or Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com.

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