Minor Recovery Follows Major Surgery

For weeks, Sarah Bunnell’s 3-year-old daughter, Hayley, practiced the routine for her first big dance recital.

Sarah, a 33-year-old Mandan resident, certainly didn’t want to miss it.

Thanks to innovative robotic-assisted surgery available at Sanford Health in Bismarck, Sarah didn’t have to. Three days after undergoing a total hysterectomy, Sarah felt well enough to sit in the audience during her daughter’s stage debut.

“It was huge,” Sarah said of being able to attend. “It was the main dance recital of the year, and she had been working on it and talking about it for weeks.”

Ever since having her daughter three years ago, Sarah suffered through painful monthly periods with heavier-than-normal bleeding. She knew a hysterectomy was the best option, but, in order to care for her children—now ages 8, 6 and 3—she put off having the procedure.

“You think it’ll take you out for at least six weeks,” she said. “With three kids, that’s not something that’s possible.”

Because she had caesarian sections with her children, Sarah wasn’t a candidate to have her uterus removed vaginally, which is the method surgeons prefer for hysterectomies, said Christopher Danielson, MD, Sarah’s physician at Sanford Obstetrics & Gynecology.

When Sanford Health introduced da Vinci robotic-assisted surgery, Dr. Danielson had another option that could get Sarah back to her normal routine quicker.

“Robotic-assisted surgery allows us to do bigger surgeries in a minimally invasive manner,” Dr. Danielson said.

With robotic-assisted surgery, surgeons use small incisions to perform procedures, which can lead to less pain, less blood loss, less scarring and a shorter recovery time.

Though it is called a robot, the da Vinci Surgical System cannot act on its own. Specially trained surgeons control every movement, and the system provides surgeons with enhanced capabilities, including high-definition 3-D vision and a magnified view thanks to a small camera inserted into the body through a minor incision.

The surgeon has control over the robotic system, which translates hand movements into smaller, more precise control of tiny instruments that enter the body through minor incisions. The instruments mimic—and, at times, exceed—the complex movements of the human hand and wrist.

Sanford Health is the first and only health system in Bismarck-Mandan to offer this innovative technology, which is the most advanced available for minimally invasive surgery.

“I was a little bit leery about the surgery because I wasn’t sure about what it all entailed until I heard about it from a friend,” Sarah said. “Dr. Danielson explained how there is a lot less complications, less pain and less time out. All of those things got my attention.”

She’s happy she chose robotic-assisted surgery.

After the surgery she experienced limited pain and quit taking prescription pain medication within four days of the procedure.

Three weeks after the procedure, she was back to her normal routine other than the standard limitations on how much she could lift, and the marks from the incisions on her abdomen were hardly noticeable.

“I’ve been able to take my kids to their activities and take care of them,” she said. “I thought I would be out completely, and my husband would have to do everything.”

Sarah is excited for what’s to come.

“I can’t wait. It’s going to be fabulous. I’m looking forward to just living life normally without having to worry about that monthly pain,” she said. “This surgery is just going to change my life.”

For more on robotic-assisted surgery, visit bismarck.sanfordhealth.org/surgery. To request an appointment with Sanford Obstetrics & Gynecology, call (701) 323-5807.

Posted Date: July 2013

Minor Recovery Follows Major Surgery

Sarah Bunnell was able to return to normal activities shortly after having a hysterectomy performed using robotic-assisted surgery.