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Gallstones are a major pain. Like kidney stones and childbirth, they cause the kind of epic pain that results when something large is trying to work its way out of a much smaller opening.
Surgery to remove an inflamed gallbladder once required a 5- to 7-inch incision, two or three days in the hospital, and a week or two recovering at home. Today, with the new da Vinci® Si™ robotic surgical system at Baylor Medical Center at Garland, gallbladder surgery now can be accomplished through a single, barely noticeable incision at the belly button.
It’s called Single-Site™ da Vinci surgery, using specially designed instruments that allow the surgeon to perform gallbladder surgery through a single incision. For the patient, this usually means an improved surgical experience, with:
“This procedure is done through a single incision about 2 to 3 centimeters long at the belly button, which is nicer cosmetically,” says Russ Birdwell, MD, a surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Garland.
The enhanced capabilities of the da Vinci system include high-definition, 3-D vision and a magnified view. The high degree of optical visualization decreases the need to move muscles and tissues, and thereby “reduces postoperative pain for the patient,” he says.
The pear-shaped gallbladder serves as a storage reservoir for digestive fluids, but the body can function just fine without one. “We remove the entire gallbladder, with the stones still inside, because over time the gallbladder will form more stones,” says Dr. Birdwell.
It’s important to understand the da Vinci surgical system is only a tool—the surgeon is performing the operation. The robotic instruments simply overcome the anatomical limitations of the human hand by enhancing access and precise maneuverability within a small operating field. People with prior abdominal surgeries may not be candidates for laparoscopic procedures because scar tissue can make visualizing the area difficult.
Other than that, there are no special considerations excluding anyone from undergoing single-site da Vinci gallbladder surgery.
Gallstone pain usually is a steady pain in the upper-right abdomen, under the ribs. Gallstones are more common in women, especially those who are pregnant or use hormone-replacement therapy. Here are some other risk factors:
Gallstones and other GI issues can be a major pain in the gut. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options, or for a referral to a surgeon on the medical staff at Baylor Garland, call 1.800.4BAYLOR or search our online directory.
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