Dangers of Robot Hysterectomy

This past week was rough! Rough because I learned of new horrors and listened to women’s terrible stories. By the time I did this I was spent and had to take time out and do something creative. Either that or I would scream things on the Internet that I probably shouldn’t.

You may not remember it but I did a blog when a woman contacted me about her health issues and pain after a Da Vinci Robot Hysterectomy a few months before she wrote that comment. She was struggling to get up each day because of pain and she did not know what to do because her surgeon had abandoned her. Mesh injured women know that tragedy all too well. She was afraid the pain was caused by mesh, so she got her operative report and nursing notes but nothing was on them. So to me it was clear that she had to have had an injury due to surgeon error.

Before I present two other women’s stories to you I want you to know that she did find someone to examine her and she indeed has nerve damage to her bladder from that surgery which can’t be taken care of for a while because she has C-Diff from all the antibiotics. Ladies, please be aware that long term use of antibiotics can caused serious and life threatening complications and C-Diff is very serious. She was told to stop all antibiotics and take probiotics and was taught how to self cath to empty her bladder. This may help slow down the infections. She now has to wait three months to see how she does before anything else can be dealt with.

When I received her comment I knew nothing about the Da Vinci Robot but did read up on it. However I am still in the dark so I began researching and found two women who willingly shared their story. I will also say that some women were angry when I asked questions after the HERS foundation posted the latest story about Angelina Jolie. Like has happened before many times in the mesh world, some women took offense and immediately wanted to blame the women because they signed a disclosure before surgery and there are risks with all surgeries. That is true but there is always more to it.

Doctors who do these surgeries are rarely forth coming about complications when you sit in front of them. In fact most people sign a disclosure just before they are wheeled into surgery and they don’t always think to take the time to research before. Even if they do research and are given a brochure and that brochure will be biased because when a hospital has spent huge funds on a machine they want that money back. That means they WANT the surgeon to do these surgeries despite the risks. You will be vulnerable to how much or how little a doctor has been trained and how many of these surgeries he/she has done and therefore you are a guinea pig for the surgeon to practice on. How can you find out about the surgeon? Well once again the hospital will be biased and will leave those details out and I doubt if you will get the truth when you ask.

So when you ask other women who have been to that surgeon will you get the truth? Sadly women are eager to tell when they had a great outcome, but rarely talk when there is a problem. Why? Well not to put women down for this, they could be involved in a lawsuit or don’t want to make their doctor angry because they still need to see someone to try to get some help. Or often women find the subject of the pelvic surgeries personal and private and they don’t want everyone to know what happened. So I hate to say it but you are screwed when you try to get information before a surgery.

Because we are taught to trust certain people and doctors are high on that list we must remember that doctors are human and are perfectly capable of human error. They lead their own personal lives just like you do and just like everyone else their home lives or work pressures can exacerbate their performance. So why blame women for what happens to them?

Women used to be and in some cases still are blamed for being raped and pressure to change things has helped women get closure after this heinous crime. These surgeries are not rape but the PTSD that comes back to haunt us after being injured during a surgery is just as bad as PTSD from rape. So please stop blaming women!

Now I will share the first story and believe me it is a horror story.

Here’s my story:

My doctor and I discussed a hysterectomy after I was told I had precancerous cells in my cervix and possibly endometriosis. I was given a choice between open traditional surgery and the DaVinci robotic surgery. I was not given a choice for regular laparoscopic surgery in fact I didn’t even know this was an option at this time. I was told compared to open traditional there would be less pain, less scaring, and most importantly a faster recovery. Recovery time would be 7-10 days rather than 6-8 weeks. I was told only the pros of the DaVinci not the cons. I would have changed my mind if I knew the risks that were involved. I was sold of the fact this was the obvious choice and because of my condition I had no time to waste. I was given a brochure and went home to discuss it with my husband. Again nowhere on the brochure did it mention laparoscopic surgery as an option only open traditional. My husband and I went online to watch a few DaVinci hysterectomy surgeries on YouTube and also watched a demonstration which was more like a commercial. I felt assured that the Da Vinci was safe. I scheduled the surgery after being approved by my insurance company and had to pay my full deductible. It was five thousand dollars but well worth it.

I had my DaVinci surgery on August 31, 2010. Everything had gone well. I was so happy and relieved how quick and easy it was. The next day I went home from the hospital. That evening I started to have a lot of pain. I waited to see if the pain pill would help but it only got worse. It got to the point where it was so bad I couldn’t even move. I was terrified and knew something was wrong. My husband called an ambulance and I was taken back to the hospital where I had my surgery. I was given a CT scan but no problems were found but I was admitted for pain.

My heart was beating over 200 beats per minute like I was running a marathon while lying down. I was breathing fast and shallow because of pain. I had these systems for nine (9) days along with gaining 20lbs of fluid during this time. I had multiple tests done and many doctors but no one could find a problem. The uncertainty of my condition had my family, friends, as well as myself shocked and afraid. On that ninth day I was given a vaginal ultrasound where they finally saw something. I was taken back to surgery that day and was told the DaVinci would be used again for exploratory surgery and would go through the same holes as before. I was afraid to go back to surgery but relieved they had finally found a problem and we would soon have an answer.

I woke up from surgery and I was in ICU. I was told my bowel had been perforated during my DaVinci surgery, but they had fixed the problem. I had a vertical scar from my ribs to my pubic area. Now, I have a team of doctors because of infection and I am very sick. I recovered for another nine days until there was another complication. I had fecal matter coming out one of my incisions. At this point I am very afraid and I know I’m in trouble. I know there is a chance that I might not live through this. That whole night my husband and I sat there scared knowing I would go back to surgery again. The next day my husband found me a specialist who will take over my case. I will go back in for my third surgery within a month.

When I woke up from surgery this time I had a breathing tube down my throat and my hands were tied down. I could not talk but my parents told me I had been in critical condition for the last 3 days. My family did not know if I would live or die. My husband had to tell my teenage children that I might not make it. My children had to comfort their Dad and tell him it would be okay even though they were so scared themselves. My family and friends were called to say goodbye. Nobody could understand what had happened. It was supposed to be quick and easy now I’m hanging on for my life.

My doctor said my insides were so bad he could not tell one thing from another. Again I was very sick with infection and had a team of doctors. I lost my hair from all the infection, stress, surgeries and medication. I was left open from the surgery with a wound vac that would help heal my infected tissue. I went back to surgery another five times, each time being cleaned out and then closed up a little at a time. I had a lot of physical therapy to get me walking again. Breathing treatments for my lungs. I went months in the hospital mostly without food or drink. I had gotten a port done for nutrition and an ileostomy that I would keep for six months while my intestines healed. Then I would come back in for another surgery to have the ileostomy reversed. While recovering I had a home nurse, I had a hospital bed, and I was still very sick.

I came in for my reversal March 2011. My doctor had to remove a few sections of my intestines, repaired a hernia, some lesions and reversed the illeostomy but a section was still not opening up and gas was not getting through so after weeks of X-rays and CT scans I went back to surgery for my 10th and final. Another section of my intestines had to be removed. I woke up from that surgery in so much pain I passed out. It was successful though and a few weeks later I was released from the hospital. A month later my port was taken out. I have been back in the hospital since for a partial bowel obstruction in my intestines. One doctor told me I will need surgery in the future because I have multiple obstructions caused by scarring. Another doctor said it would do more damage than good. All have said no surgeon would want to touch me in the future because of my injuries and what I have been through.

I did file a complaint to the medical board on my first two doctors that did my second traditional surgery. In the medical board’s conclusion dated June 29, 2012 the medical consultant opined that the bowel disruption was most likely caused by a burn from an instrument, not recognized. “These injuries are not that uncommon using this type of instrumentation.” However, this complication does not necessarily indicate negligence as robotic surgery is a fairly new modality for hysterectomy.

My husband and I always had a feeling the DaVinci had something to do with the original injury. This was supposed to be a routine surgery. How could so much have gone wrong? We were confused as to why they would not have seen the injury, especially with a magnified 3D Screen or go back to review the video to see what went wrong? A few years later we heard about the malfunctions, recalls and burns happening outside of the surgical field. My heart sank as I realized this had happened to me. I was hurt even further when I found out Intuitive maker of DaVinci knew all along and chose to hide this from their customers & patients. We have been fighting to make the appropriate changes so this will not happen to others ever since.

I know you may be feeling a little sick after reading the first one, but I applaud these women for sharing their stories so that you can look into if you have other choices. I will share some links at the bottom of this blog.

Now for the second story which gives you much more information about the instrument.

I’m writing this story of my Da Vinci hysterectomy in the hopes that I can help others make a well informed decision when comes to their health care.  I’m working with a group of others to help raise public awareness on the dangers of robotic surgery that they don’t tell you about. It is made up of other victims their families and friends.  It is our desire to bring about awareness so that no one else has to suffer as we have.  If I only would have had the information that I do now I would have never chosen this option.

The Da Vinci robot is manufactured by Intuitive Surgical out of Sunnyvale California.  It is used for hysterectomy, removing prostates, gallbladders, gastric bypass, thyroid and others.  They say with the use of the robot you will have smaller incisions, less bleeding, less pain and quicker recovery time.

As this is why so many including myself opt for this type of surgery. Sounds a whole lot better than being laid wide open right?   Not only have there been life threatening complications associated with its use but, many deaths as well.

Here are a few of the types of complications.
Malfunctions with the Da Vinci
Punctured organs
Tissue damage
Bowel and intestinal injuries
Burns and tears to the bladder, cut ureters, severed urethras
Blood vessel injuries
Fistulas, infection
Nerve and muscle damage
Surgical burns to arteries or organs
Excessive bleeding
The need for additional surgeries
Death
Vaginal cuff dehiscence (the reopening of the incision made to remove the uterus and cervix during a hysterectomy)
Peritonitis
Sepsis

Important. They have had several different recalls.
One included the recall of the monopolar scissors that can develop micro- cracks in the insulation and leak electrical energy and inadvertently burn tissue. This recall was in May of 2013. I had my hysterectomy in February of 2013.
I believe this is what happened to me.
The FDA has issued Intuitive Surgical many warning letters.
They have found that many injuries have not been reported properly if at all.

Now that I have given you a little information on the Da Vinci I will get on with my story.
I knew that I had uterine prolapse. I went in to see a new obgyn. I had seen the Da Vinci advertising on a billboard and heard it on the radio. I discussed it with him and it sounded like a good option for me. I didn’t want to be off work for extended time and less pain and smaller incision sounded good to me. My surgery was set for February 8, 2013. Went in had it and came home later that day. Actually, didn’t feel too bad. Dr said everything had went well. About a week and a half later I started to have bleeding. Went back to Dr. he had to cauterize me to stop the bleeding. 2 days later very heavy bleeding. To the point I thought I was going to pass out. Back to Dr. once again. This time he re-stitched me. Everything seemed ok for a while.

Then I started having problems in June. Things felt the same as they had when I had uterine prolapse. Back to Dr now somehow I had vaginal prolapse. More surgery July 29th. Was going to have a bladder sling and pelvic mesh. This was also done Da Vinci. When the Dr. got in there my insides were such a mess the surgery could not be completed. I was full of chronic infection and told my insides were like wet tissue paper and tearing apart. The report also said severe friability. Making the surgery to dangerous to finish. So I was sent home taking 8 very strong antibiotics a day for 10 days. Although when I had the 1st surgery there was no mention of any problems with my tissue or anything else. The Dr said he wouldn’t even think of going back in to fix the prolapse at least until December. He wanted give my insides time to heal and be sure I was free from infection.

After all this bleeding, infection the condition of my insides I started to wonder about the safety of the Da Vinci. I started doing some research and didn’t like what I was finding. I read about all the complications, the product liability lawsuits. When, I went in for my 1st post op visit I started questioning my Dr. He said it was perfectly safe and that it was just ambulance chasing attorney’s trying to scare people. I trusted him. On one of my next visits on Sept.12 I told him something was wrong. That things just didn’t feel right in my abdomen. When I walked it felt as though things were just jiggling around in there. He really didn’t say much. 2 days later I was outside and heard a pop. I immediately knew something was very wrong. I called my husband home to take me to ER at the same hospital where I had the other 2 surgeries. I was leaking a clear fluid with no control over it. I would later learn this was intestinal fluid. I was in much more serious condition than I realized at that time.

The ER Dr. came in and knew that she could do nothing to help me. She called the obgyn on call for my group. She came in and examined me and told me we had a very serious problem. I had vaginal cuff dehiscence with about 2 inches of my intestine protruding through. That was where the fluid I was leaking was coming from. She called my Dr. in. I asked him if he had ever seen this happen before. He said no only in someone who had radiation or severe diabetes. I had never had either. So I had emergency surgery done to repair the vaginal cuff. Both surgeons were there. When I came out of surgery my husband again and my mother questioned the Dr. about this once again never seen it happen. When, he came into the hospital to see me I once again asked him no never seen this happen. I guess I was just trying to figure out why this was happening to me. I was cut from hip to hip and spent a few days in the hospital. The pain was awful I could barely walk. After all of this I was quite upset.

When I went in for my next post op visit I told my Dr. that I was no ambulance chasing attorney and that this happened to me. He was speechless Needless to say I never returned to him. I went to another obgyn. After reading my reports he said this describes the insides of a 80 year old woman I don’t understand. He wanted to do more surgery Da Vinci. As you can imagine that didn’t go over very well with me. I said no and he said he couldn’t help me then he would have to send me to Indianapolis. By this time I was feeling pretty miserable and upset not knowing what to do. All I can say is someone was looking out for me.

I came up with the idea to look up the Cleveland Clinic. Where I found a Dr. that sounded as though he might be able to help me. I made a appointment and got in soon. I went through everything with him best I could. He told me that I was very lucky to be sitting there with him discussing how to fix me. He said they are seeing a lot more vaginal cuff problems with robotic surgery. This time I would need complete reconstructive surgery. Had that done at Cleveland Clinic in March of 2014. Everything went well thanks to this wonderful Dr. However ,I still have abdominal pain daily. Has been there since 3rd surgery. Had injection at Cleveland but, no relief. Bowel and digestive problems. Not to mention the physical and emotional effect this has had on my body. I just pray everything is going to be ok.

I’m not trying to scare anyone and I don’t want pity I just really want everyone to know what can happen with this type of surgery. To me it’s kind of like playing Russia Roulette sometimes you win sometimes you lose But, if you lose you lose big. To me it’s just a risk not worth taking.

I know reading these two stories is hard but these brave women wrote them to help YOU make an informed decision. Otherwise you will have surgery with a blind fold over your eyes. So here is food for thought. Obviously there are problems that have to be taken care of almost immediately. But if you can do your research before you make a decision. There is a great site called the HERS foundation and you can learn more about hysterectomy and if you REALLY need a FULL hysterectomy. This is their site and you may find an alternative.

Remember that mesh is used in most cases of hysterectomy and you may wind up in a different mess. However there are good and bad alternatives.

Bad alternatives, please read this blog

Non mesh repair read this blog

This is the first blog I wrote about another woman’s story

There is also another issue to read up on that can be of huge concern

2 Comments

  1. Susan Walters

    I went in for a laparoscopy hysterectomy and the doctor ended up doing a vaginal surgery on me I am guessing with a machine and ended up doing serious nerve damage! He did not have authorization to do the vagina and there was nothing wrong with it before he got a hold of it now it’s just a mess! So women out there beware you should take pictures of your body all of it before surgery! Or your life will be a total mess!

    Reply
    1. Linda (Post author)

      Susan I am sad to say that he may have done more harm with laparoscopy, perhaps even more so, if he was not properly trained. I truly feel for you. You are right about taken photos both before and after every surgery.

      Reply

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