Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery: Less Pain, Faster Recovery

Griffin Todd Griffin, MD
Chair, Department of Obstetrics,
Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine 
Burke William Burke, MD
Vice Chair, Clinical Affairs 
Division Director, Gynecologic Oncology

Today, many routine as well as complex obstetric and gynecologic (OB/GYN) surgeries can be performed using minimally invasive techniques. OB/GYN surgical specialists Todd Griffin, MD, and William Burke, MD, describe some of the latest innovative surgical treatment options available at Stony Brook Medicine for both benign and cancerous conditions.

When did minimally invasive OB/GYN surgeries become available?
Minimally invasive surgery was largely pioneered by gynecologists in the 1970s. However, until the mid-1990s, a woman who underwent a surgical procedure for a benign or cancerous gynecological disorder generally had to have invasive open surgery, stay in the hospital for several days at least, and endure a long recovery period. But now, with major advances in laparoscopic and roboticassisted techniques, minimally invasive procedures for most gynecologic surgeries have become the preferred option.

Who performs these surgeries?
Stony Brook Medicine has a team of skilled and experienced gynecologic surgeons specially trained to perform minimally invasive surgeries for complex benign conditions as well as for gynecologic cancers.

What conditions can be treated using these techniques?
Among the many minimally invasive OB/GYN procedures performed by Stony Brook specialists are treatments for endometriosis, infertility, fibroid tumors, incontinence, cervical cancer, ovarian cancer and endometrial cancer. Diagnostic evaluation and surgical biopsies to help identify a new or recurrent cancer and help individualize a patient’s treatment can also be done with these techniques.

What techniques are available?
Our doctors are trained in laparoscopic procedures, robotic, vaginal or mini-laparotomy techniques – each of which involves small incisions, reduced blood loss, little scarring and a far faster recovery time. Depending on the type of procedure required, the physician may make the incisions just above the pubic hairline, in the abdomen and/or navel or through the vagina.

What’s the recovery time?
Frequently, patients can go home the same day of their surgery and often are back at work in less than two weeks.

How does laparoscopic surgery differ from robotic-assisted surgery?
While both laparoscopic and robotic equipment enable physicians to perform minimally invasive procedures, they each have their own unique capabilities. Laparoscopic tools are rigid, with cameras that provide two-dimensional views for the physicians. Laparoscopic procedures are generally used for more routine surgeries. Robotic-assisted surgical tools offer more flexibility and a three-dimensional view, making them appropriate for more complex procedures.

What type of training do these surgeons have?
Stony Brook Medicine’s specialized surgeons have completed additional formal training in minimally invasive and robotic-assisted surgery either through a fellowship in Gynecologic Oncology, or through a Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Fellowship. And while the average OB/GYN in New York State performs five to six hysterectomies annually, the physicians in the Minimally Invasive Gynecologic Surgery Department at Stony Brook University School of Medicine perform more than 100 each year.

Can most OB/GYN surgeries be minimally invasive?
Yes. However, keep in mind that although these surgeries are becoming more commonplace, there are still situations and conditions that may require traditional open surgery. An example would be when a tumor has grown too large to be removed by minimally invasive methods. Fortunately, for our patients, open invasive surgeries in this field are becoming a thing of the past.

How do I know if I can have a minimally invasive procedure?
Physicians at Stony Brook Medicine advise that patients who need gynecologic surgery speak to their own doctors about their prospects for these procedures, and if the doctor doesn’t offer them, to seek a second opinion. To become more knowledgeable, we suggest visiting the following websites: acog.org, sgo.org and aagl.org.

For more information, call General OB/GYN surgery: (631) 444-4686; Gynecologic Oncology surgery (631) 444-2989, or visit womenshealth.stonybrookmedicine.edu