Fast Recovery, Less Pain: New Options for Hysterectomy
If you ask Diane Goldenberg, 51, what she did this last summer, she’ll tell you, “bleed and sleep. “Practically overnight, I went from having a normal monthly menstrual period, to one that was out of control,” she said. “The bleeding was so heavy and constant I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything for very long. I even slept on a towel at one point.”
The blood loss made her severely anemic and exhausted. “I was sleeping for more than 14 hours a day. I’d drop the kids at camp and then nap until it was time to pick them up, struggle to stay awake at dinner and then go right to bed. It was the summer that wasn’t.”
For a wife and mother of two kids, who tutors learning-disabled children, volunteers for multiple North Shore organizations and rescues greyhound dogs, this was far from normal.
Assuming she was entering the beginning stages of menopause, Goldenberg initially suffered through the inconvenience and the pain. But, when the bleeding didn’t stop after three weeks, Goldenberg made an appointment with her NSMC gynecologist, Mitchell Rein, M.D.
“My mother died of ovarian cancer when she was 67 years old, and I’ve always been very proactive about cancer screenings and getting regular check ups. I just knew this wasn’t normal,” she said.
After a biopsy, ultrasound and blood tests ruled out ovarian cancer and fibroids, and taking hormone pills failed to regulate the bleeding, Dr. Rein referred her to NSMC’s director of minimally invasive gynecologic surgery Christopher Coffey, M.D., to discuss the surgical options for treating her abnormal bleeding.
The first option was uterine artery embolization, a minimally invasive procedure often used to treat fibroids and excessive bleeding. But after additional testing revealed that she was not a candidate for that procedure, they decided her best option for relief was a hysterectomy.
Total laparoscopic hysterectomy (TLH) is performed solely through laparoscopes, which are inserted into the abdomen through three tiny, quarter-of-an-inch abdominal incisions instead of a traditional eight-inch abdominal incision. All tissue to be removed is then passed through the vagina.
“When my mother had her hysterectomy, she was in the hospital for a week and in bed for more than six weeks,” said Goldenberg. “I was shocked when Dr. Coffey told me I could probably go home the same day and be back to normal within a week or two.”
“There are multiple benefits of this surgical approach—small incisions, less scarring and blood loss, decreased risk of infection and pain, faster recovery and a shorter hospital stay,” explained Dr. Coffey. “In fact, the impact is so minimal that most of our patients lose less than a tablespoon of blood during the whole procedure.”
“My recovery was so much quicker than I could have imagined,” said Goldenberg. “The first week I took it slowly, but by the end of it I was driving my kids around. I was off pain medication after two days and only using ibuprofen. After two weeks, I was pretty much back to my normal schedule. I was a little sore, but no more than a good workout would cause.”
Says Goldenberg, “I can’t believe how quickly I recovered and how good I feel. More women should know about this.”
In Their Words
Watch Dr. Coffey's video about the benefits minimally invasive gynecologic surgery on our YouTube channel.