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What Women Want: Shorter Recovery Times

When Steve Brisbois, MD, an Ob-Gyn (pictured below), was first approached about undergoing training to do surgeries with robotic assistance, he was just as skeptical as many other physicians are. He admits to having wondered whether the robot was “just another expensive toy.”

“I had been doing laps [laparoscopic surgery, which also uses small incisions] for years and I wasn’t convinced robotic surgery was different,” he shares. “But within a few months, I discovered I could do cases that I couldn’t do with a straight lap.”

“It enables me to perform complex surgeries that I couldn’t otherwise perform, and to do them better and more safely,” he adds. “The robot is not just another toy—it has absolute value and benefit to my patients.”

Sacred Heart Shorter Recovery Times OB/GYNAccording to Dr. Brisbois, robotic surgery is here to stay, and it’s changing the way surgery is approached. As an example, a woman who weighed more then 400 pounds desperately needed a hysterectomy. She’d been told there was no way to do the surgery other than through an open abdomen, which would have been very risky in her case. But Dr. Brisbois was able to do her surgery minimally invasively with the robot and she had no complications.

 “The robot is not just a toy – it has absolute value and benefit to patients.”
—Steven Brisbois, MD

Other patients for whom robotic surgery is appropriate are women who need to have large uterine fibroids removed, but want to be able to have children, and thus need to preserve their fertility. Dr. Brisbois says the difference between doing a standard laparoscopy with rigid, straight instruments versus the robot’s flexible “wrist” is amazing. He explains, “When you have a fibroid on the back side (of the uterus), going in with ‘straight sticks’ makes it far more difficult and you certainly can’t sew up the uterus without risking a move that will render the patient infertile. I don’t have those worries with the robot.”

What about patients who are typically candidates for procedures done vaginally versus laparoscopy or open abdomen? The problem with vaginal surgery, says Dr. Brisbois, is visualization—it’s just too hard to see some of the issues that may need to be addressed. Plus, patients who have major adhesions or scar tissue from C-sections, and women who are large or whose uteruses are large, aren’t candidates for that kind of surgery anyway.

“There are patients who simply cannot have minimally invasive surgery—or have it safely—without the robot,” he concludes. “It’s a ‘no brainer’ to me, that with these patients, robotic surgery is better than open-abdomen.”

He believes there is more on the horizon. “The field of gynecological cancer is going to be totally revolutionized with robotic surgery,” he predicts. “Other centers are doing radical Gyn surgeries that otherwise cannot be done without a major incision. It will happen here, too.”

Dr. Brisbois is one of only a few only physicians in the Inland Northwest offering robotic gynecologic surgery. As a proctor for Intuitive Surgical, he has been training physicians in the Seattle area. He remains the most experienced robotic surgeon in the state for non-cancer gynecologic surgeries, and is seeing patients from as far away as Seattle and Montana.