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Robotic Surgery in Urogynecology

Dr. Elizabeth Geller Performs Robotic Urogynecological Surgery

For eight years Marion Coughenour hadn't felt quite right. Coughenour, a 69-year-old Wendell resident, like hundreds of thousands of women each year, was diagnosed with pelvic organ prolapse, a condition that occurs when the connective tissues and muscles of the pelvis are weak and unable to hold pelvic organs in their natural orientation. Although eight years was a long time to live with her persistent symptoms, waiting until this past year to have her surgery worked out to her advantage in several ways. She had a shorter hospital stay, less recovery time and much less pain thanks to robotic surgery, a new procedure offered at the UNC Specialty Women's Center at Rex.

Eight years ago, Coughenour may have found herself undergoing a maximally invasive procedure to repair her condition through an incision in the abdomen. Or, she may have been a candidate for laparoscopic surgery, which is also less invasive, but not without its own risks. However, in June 2008, after reviewing all options with surgeon Dr. Elizabeth Geller, she decided to undergo a robotic sacrocolpopexy, and does not regret her decision. "Everything went great and couldn't have been better," said Coughenour.

About Dr. Elizabeth Geller

Dr. Geller is a urogynecologic surgeon who has been at UNC since 2005, when she came to complete her fellowship in urogynecology and reconstructive pelvic surgery. She has been active at both the state and national levels, with leadership positions in the American College of OB/GYN (ACOG) and the American Urogynecologic Society (AUGS). Dr. Geller has also presented research in robotics and other areas in several national forums. Her research was the first to compare robotic sacrocolpopexy to abdominal sacrocolpopexy and was the lead article published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in December. She is also a member of the Computer and Robotic Enhanced Surgical Center (CARES) at UNC.

Robotic Surgery at Rex

In 2007, Rex Healthcare made the da Vinci® surgical system available for use by its physicians. The system provides surgeons with an alternative to both traditional open surgery and conventional laparoscopy, putting the surgeon's hands at the controls of a state-of-the-art robotic platform. This technology enables surgeons to perform even the most complex and delicate procedures through very small incisions with unmatched precision. According to Dr. Geller, the robotic system differs from laparoscopic surgical tools in that the instrumentation allows for a full range of motion and enhanced 3-D visualization.

Dr. Geller acknowledges that while robotic surgery is not for everyone, a lot of patients are opting for the new procedure, as she has been performing several each month. "As long as a patient is healthy enough for surgery, she is usually a candidate for robotic surgery," said Dr. Geller. "There is a need for abdominal, vaginal, laparoscopic and robotic surgery in urogynecology, which is why it is very important to discuss all options with your doctor. Patients coming to UNC Specialty Women's Center at Rex are fortunate to have all three options to consider," added Geller.

For most women, da Vinci® Sacrocolpopexy offers numerous potential benefits over a traditional open approach:

  • Significantly less pain
  • Less blood loss and need for transfusions
  • Less risk of infection
  • Less scarring
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Shorter recovery time
  • Quicker return to normal activities

As with any surgery, these benefits cannot be guaranteed, as surgery is patient- and procedure- specific. For more information about this procedure and other services offered by the UNC Specialty Women's Center at Rex, call (919) 784-6425.