Treating urogynecology issues with robotic surgery

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Technique credited with better outcomes, quicker healing

SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU) — Women commonly see a gynecologist for evaluation and treatment of a wide range of conditions. But when it comes to women’s health issues beyond pregnancy, menstruation or menopause they are often referred to what’s called a urogynecologist.

Urogynecologists are specially trained in urology, gynecology, and obstetrics to handle troublesome issues of the pelvic region in women. Eyewitness News Healthbeat Reporter Mark Hiller met a urogynecologist originally from Honesdale who recently achieved a milestone in treating her patients.

Commonwealth Health Urogynecologist Barbara Plucknett, MD has been treating patients for 22 years. Most of them are women whose muscles and tissues supporting their pelvic organs have become weak and loose.

She said, “Most of what we treat is prolapse. Either their bladder has dropped, their uterus has dropped, their rectum will have a little pouch over the top of it. A rectocele.”

The condition creates discomfort and a feeling of pressure. Surgery isn’t always necessary but often is. For the first half of Dr. Plucknett’s career, that meant open surgery.

“With a very long incision from the pubic bone to belly button. And it was, of course, a multi-day in-hospital stay. Three days minimum typically and six weeks of a pretty difficult recovery,” Dr. Plucknett said.

But that all changed about a decade ago when Dr. Plucknett performed her first robotic-assisted surgery. It’s a much less invasive procedure which relies on 3D vision and what’s called wristed instruments.

“So it’s as though my hands are in the inside of the patient doing the work with small little instruments,” Dr. Plucknett said.

The incisions are small but the precision is great. Robotic-assisted prolapse surgery typically takes about two to three hours to complete. Almost all patients go home the same day. “They have very little pain and discomfort which in this era of, you know, worry about narcotic use this is great.”

Just this summer, Dr. Plucknett performed her 1,000th robotic-assisted surgery. “The most difficult part about having this procedure is being reminded that you had such a major surgery and have to be cautious about your recovery.”

Dr. Plucknett performs her procedures at Regional Hospital of Scranton. She also serves as a proctor for other doctors who are fine-tuning their robotic-assisted surgery skills.

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