Procedure to treat hernias may help cut down on infections, recovery time

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

By Tera Roberson - Special Projects Producer

HOUSTON - 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.

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 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," Pineda 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. The robot allows the surgeon to have all control of all the instruments that are performing the surgery," said Michael Albrecht, MD, FACS, director, Baptist Health System Robotic Center of Excellence, San Antonio.

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 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," said Donald Dilworth, MD, FACS, medical director at Baptist Health System Hernia Center, San Antonio.

That means patients such as Pineda can get back to life more quickly.

The cause of hernias can be anything from increased abdominal pressure, severe allergies that cause coughing, or even obesity. Doctors said not only is the robotic surgery more effective, there is minimal pain and less risk for taking opioids, which are very addictive.

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