Robotic hernia surgery speeds up recovery

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Thousands of people suffer from hernias, which are weak spots in the abdominal wall. The real trouble begins when intestines or fat slips through that muscle hole and become stuck or twisted.

Now, there is new hope with robotic hernia surgery. These are some of the benefits of this new, minimally invasive procedure.

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," Pineda said.

An unguinal 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," she said.

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: 3D, 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," Dr. Michael Albrecht said. "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, my personal protocol is to send them back on family walks on Day 4," Dr. Donald Dilworth said. "At Day 7, 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 Pineda can get back to life more quickly

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

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

REPORT: MB #4619

BACKGROUND: A hernia occurs when an organ pushes through an opening or hole in the muscle or tissue that holds it in place. The most common place for hernias to happen is in the abdomen. Most of the time hernias are not immediately life-threatening, but they do not just go way. They may need surgery to prevent complications in the future and may also cause pain and discomfort for patients. They can also be found in the upper thigh, belly button, and groin areas. There are four types of hernias, an inguinal, hiatal, umbilical, and incisional hernia. (Source: &

CAUSES: Hernias are caused by a combination of muscle weakness and strain, which have many causes and factors for both. Muscle weakness can occur from things like congenital defects, age, chronic coughing, and damage from an injury or surgery. Factors that strain the body potentially causing hernias are pregnancy, constipation, lifting heavy weight, ascites, weight gain, surgery, and sneezing. Conditions like cystic fibrosis are also something that can increase a patient's risk of developing a hernia. There are also many risk factors for developing a hernia. (Source: &

ROBOTIC SURGERY: Donald Dilworth, MD, FACS, Medical Director at Baptist Health System Hernia Center, San Antonio explains how hernia surgery has changed and how it can benefit patients. Dr. Dilworth says, "Every move that you make with your hand, the robot makes the same move. So, it doesn't do anything that you don't tell it to do. And that's why it gives us the ability, essentially, to do the same thing we would have otherwise done laparoscopically and then sometimes would have done open," said Dilworth. 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. The other one will be smaller, and you can't clinically detect it. But when you're in the operating room, it gives you the ability to, number one, look at it, number two repair it as well, with the same incisions," he added. (Source: Donald Dilworth, MD, FACS)