For 15 years, Barbara Riley, 54, of Quakertown, PA, lived with her umbilical hernia — a painless protrusion near her belly button. She could have had her hernia repaired at any time, but because she was symptom free, she was happy to hold off on surgery.
“I spent a lot of time in the hospital as a child, and I’m terrified of needles, surgery and especially being put to sleep,” she explains.
Barbara’s primary care provider monitored her hernia over time. All was well until 2020, when she began experiencing intermittent pain, nausea and vomiting. A CT scan confirmed her primary care physician’s suspicion — the hernia was the source of her symptoms. A surgical repair was the solution.
Time for a Plan
“My first thought was about missing work, because I love my job,” says Barbara, a licensed practical nurse who helps people who are going through chemotherapy. She also knew she would have to face her fear of surgery. Moving ahead, Barbara scheduled a consultation with Andrew Lambour, MD, a Doylestown Health general surgeon who is fellowship trained in minimally invasive surgery.
“Dr. Lambour was phenomenal,” says Barbara. He was personable, knowledgeable and explained the procedure in an easy-to-understand way. I felt completely safe.”
Umbilical Hernia 101
An umbilical hernia is a hole in the muscle and connective tissue of the abdominal wall that allows fat or, occasionally, bowel to move through and out of the abdominal cavity.
“Hernias are mostly a nuisance. They get bigger over time and can cause pain,” explains Dr. Lambour. Though not a common problem, hernias can become dangerous if bowel (herniated tissue) that is sticking out of the abdominal cavity becomes strangulated, meaning cut off from the blood supply. This is a medical emergency, according to Dr. Lambour.
Opting for Robotic Repair
“Hernia surgeries can be open with a larger incision or minimally invasive,” says Dr. Lambour. “We tailor our recommendations to each patient, presenting all options. The patient and surgeon review the possibilities together. Barbara wanted to get back to work as soon as possible, and she opted for a robot-assisted repair.”
Robotics in Action
Robotic technology allows surgeons to perform complex procedures through tiny incisions. Doylestown Health’s Intuitive da Vinci® Surgical System technology gives surgeons three-dimensional, high-definition views, while the surgeon sits near the patient in an ergonomically designed console using joysticks or finger grips to maneuver robotic arms and instruments. The arms have wristed joints that bend and rotate 360 degrees, offering a greater range of motion than the human hand.
“Robotics are integrated into our practice, so we can offer more advanced robotic techniques for patients including complex and larger hernias and repairs on hernias that have been operated on multiple times at other institutions,” says Dr. Lambour.
Benefits of robotic surgery for patients:
- Smaller incisions
- Less pain
- Shorter hospital stays
- Lower risk of additional hernias down the line
- Lower risk of intra-abdominal adhesions
- Easier for patients
- Less scarring
- Faster return to an active lifestyle
Less pain means that patients need less pain medication like opioids, which is especially important due to the opioid addiction epidemic.
A Grateful Patient
“I had four tiny incisions and no pain,” says Barbara. “I took ibuprofen the day of my procedure and that was it. My surgery was on a Friday, I drove to pick up a tomato pie for Dr. Lambour on Monday and I was back to work by Wednesday.”
“Barbara is a bundle of energy and lots of fun. She was able to achieve her goal of going back to work and also back to the gym,” says Dr. Lambour who, thanks to Barbara, also enjoyed his first tomato pie.
About Doylestown Health
Doylestown Health is a comprehensive healthcare system of inpatient, outpatient and wellness education services connected to meet the health needs of all members of the local and regional community. Doylestown Hospital, the flagship to Doylestown Health has 271 beds and a Medical Staff of more than 435 physicians in over 50 specialties. An independent nonprofit health system, Doylestown Health is dedicated to providing innovative, patient-centered care for all ages.