Minimally invasive pelvic surgery a viable option for some patients

By Katherine Morales / Holidays 2010

For a busy woman like Patricia Patterson, the idea of a minimally invasive procedure with a shorter recovery seemed like a workable solution to needed surgery.

“I travel a lot, and when I decided to have pelvic surgery, I knew it would slow me down for a while,” Ms. Patterson said. “But the time came when I knew I needed to go ahead and do it.”

Patricia Patterson was a good candidate for the robotic surgery in which Dr. Philippe Zimmern specializes.

Ms. Patterson was well aware of the expertise in minimally invasive surgery at UT Southwestern. In addition to serving on the Board of Visitors for UT Southwestern University Hospitals & Clinics, she has been a patient at UT Southwestern clinics for years, and her father, Dr. Cecil Patterson, was a clinical faculty member with UT Southwestern in a career that spanned five decades.

Her physician, Dr. Philippe Zimmern, professor of urology, thought Ms. Patterson would be a good candidate for the delicate, robot-assisted surgery.

Dr. Zimmern is one of the few surgeons in the region doing this particular complex pelvic procedure using the DaVinci robot, which is controlled by the surgeon via a joystick. The DaVinci provides better camera views and more precise surgical manipulations than are available in traditional laparoscopic surgeries.

“For this procedure, the patient has five small incisions where we place the arms of the robot, which gives us greater range of movement and the ability to manipulate the instruments,” Dr. Zimmern said. “Then we place sutures and surgical mesh, which provides support of pelvic organs.”

Other similar procedures are more invasive. The long-term results of both open surgery and robot-assisted surgery are similar, but with the robot, patients recover faster because the hospital stay is brief, the incisions heal rapidly, and the post-operative pain is generally minimal and short-lived.

“I’ve been very pleased with the outcome,” Ms. Patterson said. “I am very grateful for Dr. Zimmern’s skill and attention.”