Women's Health

Not Your Mother’s Hysterectomy

Outpatient Procedure Offers Limited Scarring, Reduced Pain, Quicker Recovery

Women who are considering a hysterectomy may have memories of their mothers or grandmothers undergoing a major surgery involving a long, painful recovery and significant lifelong scars.

Physicians at Spectrum Health are using laparo-endoscopic single-site surgery to conduct hysterectomies on an outpatient basis with little or no scarring, enabling patients to return to work or their regular routines in as little as a week.

“This isn’t your mother’s hysterectomy,” said John LaGrand, MD, a Spectrum Health physician who practices at Advanced OB/GYN. “In the past, women who underwent hysterectomies were admitted to the hospital for two to three days and then spent up to six weeks recovering at home. With this procedure, they can go home within a few hours and, because we haven’t cut anything structural, there are no physical limitations. Patients are thrilled to get back to their lives in a matter of days.”

LaGrand, an obstetrics/gynecology surgeon, started offering the procedure to his patients last fall after attending a training session at the University of South Florida.

“Most of the physicians there were generalists looking at the procedure for gall bladder removal. It occurred to me that this would be a great option for my hysterectomy patients as well,” said LaGrand, who has performed more than 40 laparo-edoscopic single-site surgeries since October 2009. He is among the first surgeons in Michigan to perform the surgery.

According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 66 percent of all hysterectomies are performed abdominally, 22 percent are vaginal and only 12 percent are performed laparoscopically.

Laparoscopic surgery is a minimally invasive procedure (limited cutting) performed with the assistance of a camera or scope. Laparo-edoscopic single-site surgery uses one entry point into the abdominal cavity, usually through the belly button, which limits scarring. A new device, a tri-port, allows the surgeon to place multiple instruments into the cavity.

“The ability to consolidate our instruments in a single port has been absolutely key to performing the surgery effectively and efficiently,” explained LaGrand. “The surgeon’s ability to see clearly what is happening during the procedure has been enhanced because we now can use a flexible tip endoscopic camera. It is smaller than a pencil and is able to look in any direction while traditional scopes are about the size of a small finger and only look forward or to one side.”

Pain is limited because an umbilical incision damages few nerves.

“The good news is that this procedure is an option for almost all hysterectomy candidates,” said LaGrand. “Women are thrilled that they can feel better faster and have limited disruption in their lives.”

Spectrum Health is a not-for-profit health system in West Michigan that offers a full continuum of care through the Spectrum Health Hospital Group, a collection of eight hospitals and more than 140 service sites; the Spectrum Health Medical Group, mmpc® and West Michigan Heart—physician groups totaling more than 400 providers; and Priority Health, a health plan with nearly 580,000 members. Spectrum Health’s 16,000 employees, 1,500 medical staff members and 2,000 volunteers are committed to delivering the highest quality care. The organization provided $79.4 million in community benefit during its 2009 fiscal year. As a system, Spectrum Health has earned more than 100 awards since it was formed in 1997.